Poetry and Poetics


The Program in Poetry and Poetics brings together a diverse community of literary scholars, poets, and translators working on poetry and poetics across a spectrum of regions, historical periods, and theoretical approaches at the University of Chicago. The faculty includes experts on classical Chinese poetry, the French avant-garde, the modern reception of archaic Greek poetry, and contemporary British and American writing. The Program seeks to expand the critical understanding of poetics as a field that encompasses not only the study of poetry, but various aspects of literary theory, media studies, and historicist models of inquiry as well. Because many of the faculty members and graduate students presently engaged in the study of poetry and poetics at Chicago are publishing poets, the Program also fosters work that crosses the border between critical thought and creative practice.

Selected Faculty

John Wilkinson

John Wilkinson

20th Century American and British Literature, Psychoanalysis, Poetry and Poetics

Sample Courses

ENGL 56500 - Anthropological Poetics (Edgar Garcia)
This course explores the problematics that congeal when the disciplinary norms of anthropology and literary studies intersect. Since the 1970s, such anthropologists as James Clifford, Nestor Garcia Canclini, Paul Rabinow, and Donna Haraway have coordinated cultural analyses through concepts of representation, narrative, poetic form, and voice. Subsequently, poets and writers of the language school, indigenous background, and the ethnopoetics movement, among others, picked up on this anthropological mode to animate those concepts through anthropological concerns with reflexivity, textual thickness, interdiscursivity, metapragmatics, the posthuman, kinship, and intercultural semiotics. These intersections have overlaid literary objects with a kind of interdisciplinary noise, challenging what a literary object is and, as well, what objects we elect to think of as literature. This course will amplify that noise to trouble disciplinary norms of literary studies--especially the study of poetry and poetics--while also tuning into that trouble as a strategy of interpretation. Final papers will be methodological position pieces, orientating analyses of literary objects within this transdisciplinary flashpoint.

ENGL 34800 - Poetics (Srikanth Reddy)
In this course, we will study poetry “in the abstract.” We will study various efforts on the part of philosophers, literary critics, and poets themselves to formulate theories of poetic discourse. We will examine a range of historical attempts to conceptualize poetry as a particular kind of language practice, from Aristotle to Adorno and beyond. But we will also question the very project of thinking about “poetics” as opposed to “poetry” or “poems.” Is it possible to theorize the art form without doing violence to the particularity—and peculiarity—of individual poems themselves? 

ENGL 42918 - CDI Seminar: Exploratory Translation (Jennifer Scappatone)
Focusing on the theory, history and practice of poetic translation, this seminar includes sessions with invited theorists and practitioners from North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Taking translation to be an art of making sense that is transmitted together with a craft of shapes and sequences, we aim to account for social and intellectual pressures influencing translation projects. We deliberately foreground other frameworks beyond “foreign to English” and “olden epochs to modern”—and other methods than the “equivalence of meaning”—in order to aim at a truly general history and theory of translation that might both guide comparative cultural history and enlarge the imaginative resources of translators and readers of translation. In addition to reading and analysis of outside texts spanning such topics as semantic and grammatical interference, gain and loss, bilingualism, self-translation, pidgin, code-switching, translationese, and foreignization vs. nativization, students will be invited to try their hands at a range of tactics, aiming toward a final portfolio of annotated translations.

ENGL 38650 - Dickinson's Poetry (Richard Strier)
This course will try to give some sense of the range and power of Emily Dickinson's achievement as a poet. We will wrestle with the major issues that the poetry presents, along with its inherent difficulty: its religious content, its erotic content, its treatment of emotions and psychological states. We will reckon with questions of textual instability, but they will not be the focus of the course. A short paper and a longer paper will be required.

FREN 37701 - Baudelaire (Rosanna Warren)
Taught in French
Une étude approfondie de l’oeuvre de Baudelaire. Nous lirons Les Fleurs du mal, Les Petits poèmes en prose, et morceaux choisis de sa critique d’art, essayant d’établir une perspective sur ce grand poète à la fois classique et romantique, un artiste tranditionnel et révolutionnaire qui a aide à créer la modernité.

An in-depth study of Baudelaire’s works. We will read Les Fleurs du mal, Les Petits poèmes en prose, and selections from his art criticism, in order to develop a perspective on this great poet, who was at once classical and romantic, a traditional and a revolutionary artist who helped create modernism.

A complete listing of offerings is available at the Poetry and Poetics course page.

The Poetics Option

The MAPH Poetics Option is intended for students who are primarily interested in the critical study of poetry and poetics. Students who complete the following requirements will receive a Poetry and Poetics notation on their MAPH transcript:

  • The MAPH Core course
  • The Poetics Seminar
  • One Pre-Romantic Poetry course
  • One Non-Anglophone Poetry course (can be studied in translation)
  • One Modern or Contemporary Poetry course
  • Complete a thesis with a relation to poetry and poetics under the supervision of a Poetics faculty member

Recent Poetics Thesis Projects

"'Poetry is Revolution': José Lezama Lima’s Poetics in the Revolutionary Era"
Allison Carlisle, MAPH '12
Advisor: Agnes Lugo-Ortiz

"'Further and further inside, the certitude of absence': Liminality, (Non)presence, and the Poetics of Embodiment in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee"
Maria Dikcis, MAPH '13
Advisor: Roxana Galusca

“The Thrill of Making Enemies”: Poetry Magazine and the Politics of Vers Libre
Teddy Roland, MAPH '14
Advisor: Jennifer Scappettone