A Visual Approach to 19th- and 20th-Century Poetry
(19. és 20. századi versek vizuális megközelítésben)
ANN-312.193 AKN-312.193 AN-312.193 AEL-350.31
2008 Spring

A seminar held at
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest (ELTE); Faculty of Arts (BTK)
School of English and American Studies (SEAS)
Department of English Studies (DES)

This course aims at approaching literature in an alternative, a more visual way by introducing certain concepts derived from Alexander A Potebnja's theory of literature and other Structuralist approaches. We will search for new interpretative strategies by contrasting readings of poems made with the use of these concepts to readings created without them. The reading list contains only seven poems in order to be able to close-read them all in class. During the course, theoretical texts by Schorer, Lévi-Strauss and Jakobson will also be (re-)read with a focus on connections to the concepts to be introduced.

General schedule
  • Weeks 0, 1: Introduction.
  • Weeks 2, 3, 4: You will be asked to read and provide comments on the poems in writing. Problems to focus on shall include: the perceived distance between the Author and the Lyrical I; the effectiveness of the poem (value-judgement); the world as represented in the poem. Discussion of the poems in-class.
  • Weeks 5, 6, 8: Introduction of the following concepts: element of reality (valóságelem), image (kép), imaged (tárgy), theme (téma), metathesis (áttételesség), alienation (elidegenítés), layers A and B. We will also read the assigned theoretical texts, on which short presentations are welcome.
  • Weeks 9, 10, 11, 12: The poems will be re-read using the newly introduced concepts and strategies. One or two short essays on a chosen poem are to be submitted prior to the discussion of the text in class.
  • Week 13: Evaluation.
Reading list
  • Primary texts
    • Browning: My Last Duchess
    • Swinburne: The Garden of Proserpine
    • Ernest Dowson: Non sum qualis... (Cynara)
    • Arthur Symons: At Dieppe, At Glan-y-Wern
    • Yeats: Sailing to Byzantium (etext), Byzantium (etext)
  • Secondary texts
    • Discussed
      • From Fizer, John. Alexander A. Potebnja's Psycholinguistic Theory of Literature: A Metacritical Inquiry: Introduction; From Chapter One: 1.5 (The Word as an Analogue...), 1.7 (Conclusion); Chapter Two In SEAS library
      • Schorer, Mark. "Technique as Discovery." IN 20th Century Literary Criticism: A Reader, ed. David Lodge (London: Longman, 1972), 386-400.
      • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. "The Structural Study of Myth." IN Literary Theory: An Anthology, ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan (Mass.: Blackwell, 1998), 101-115.
    • Recommended
      • Eliot, T. S. "Tradition and the Individual Talent." IN 20th Century Literary Criticism: A Reader, ed. David Lodge (London: Longman, 1972), 71-77.
      • Wordsworth, William. "Preface to Lyrical Ballads, with Pastoral and Other Poems." - etext (1800)
      • Jakobson, Roman. "Linguistics and Poetics." IN Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader, ed. David Lodge (London: Longman, 1988), 32-57

1. Active participation
2. Preparing a short written note for each poem discussed
3A. Writing two short essays on two selected poems using the introduced concepts
3B. Writing one short essay on one selected poem using the introduced concepts and giving a presentation on one of the secondary texts

Guidelines, further information
  • Short notes: Length: about two paragraphs, half a page (single-spaced). Main question to focus on: how the poem means what it means; not what the poem means (do not explicate or paraphrase the poem). Further problems to address: the perceived distance between the Author and the Lyrical I; the effectiveness of the poem (value-judgement); the world as represented in the poem. Avoid using elements from the biography of the author or historical context. Try to focus on the text itself. Be prepared to present your ideas in class.
  • Short essays: Length: at least two and a half pages (single-spaced). Should be a short scholarly paper. Please use the CMS (Chicago Manual Style, footnote) reference system with parenthesized references to lines of poetry. A guide is available here. Be prepared to present your findings in class.
  • The notes and the essays are to be written prior to our discussion of the given poem and submitted at the end of the specific class. If necessary, send me your homework via email.
  • Presentations on secondary texts: Length: about twenty minutes. Your main aim should be to prompt discussion, raise ideas, point out connections. Do not merely present an outline of the argument.