Sex, death, God, and rock ’n’ roll: from the first century of Modern English until today, the sonnet and other seemingly simple lyric forms have told of enduring obsessions and social change, of politics, gender, and religion. We will explore a range of these poems, as well as theoretical and critical analyses, in order to understand and test the limits of poetic form, genre, and tradition.
Our attention will move between past and present, sound and sight, creativity and communication. Readings will include some of the great Elizabethan sonnet sequences, the heart-rending meditations of Milton, Keats, and Lady Mary Wroth, nineteenth-century exposés of moral and political corruption from Wordsworth to George Meredith, and twentieth-century women’s and men’s expansions of poetic authority and form across class, race, and nations. Song will vie with written verse, but the surprising range of sonnets in English will provide our anchor as we consider why lyrics, the metaphor of poetic voice, and the legacy of the past remain so compelling–and important–in the modern world of innovation where talk is cheap.