Dr. Philip Nel
425 Benson Hall
Office Hours: TR 1:00-2:30, W 3-4, & by appointment.
Virtual Office Hours: Philip.W.Nel@Vanderbilt.Edu philnel@ksu.edu.
English 112W, Section 5
Carmichael East 208
MWF 11:10 AM -12:00 PM
English 112W: Introduction to Poetry
Required Texts:
Hacker, Diana. The Bedford Handbook for Writers, 5th Edition.
Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms, 6th Edition.
Ferguson, Margaret, et al. The Norton Anthology of Poetry, 4th Edition.
Levine, Philip. The Simple Truth.
Optional Text:
Strunk, William, and E. B. White. The Elements of Style, 3rd Edition.
This course is designed to introduce you to various forms of poetry in English and to improve your critical skills in reading and writing. As we read poets from the Renaissance to the present day, we will develop a vocabulary for talking about poetry by studying its formal elements and by investigating the persistence of some recurring themes. We will talk about writing in class, through peer reviews, and in individual conferences.
During the semester, you will write four papers of varying lengths. You will rewrite the first two of these papers, and will receive a grade for the revised paper. N.B.: You should spend as much time on the revision as you do on the original.

Papers must: be typed (preferably word-processed) and double-spaced; include a title, your name, and the date; have numbered pages that are stapled or paper-clipped together. Keep all of your papers in a folder, and hand in this folder each time you hand in a new paper. Clearly write your name on the outside of the folder. Any paper not meeting these requirements will not be accepted. Also, since you are responsible for maintaining a complete folder of your writing, please make sure to save your papers on a back-up disk and to keep a hard copy of every piece of work you turn in to me. Late papers will be penalized one grade increment (e.g., B+ to B) for each day late.

Plagiarism: Don't plagiarize. When you turn in a paper, you pledge that you have faithfully abided by the guidelines for documenting sources. According to Vanderbilt's honor code, you must cite the sources of any ideas that are not your own. If you quote, paraphrase, or use another's ideas, you must give credit to the person whose ideas you are using. The Bedford Handbook provides guidelines for documentation. If you have any questions, please ask. If you plagiarize, you will automatically fail this course.

Response Papers:
Once a week, you will hand in at the beginning of class a typed, double-spaced response paper (1-2 pages) to one of the two or three poems designated by an "R" on the syllabus. The response is due in class the day we begin our discussion of the reading assigned. No late response papers will be accepted.

Response papers are due the day we begin our discussion; they are intended to help to prepare you for class discussion and improve your critical reading and writing skills. For your response paper, select one or two lines, a phrase, or even a word from the poem; type your selection out in full, and then write a commentary in which you strive to articulate why the selection strikes you as important or significant to a reading of the poem. In other words, use your selected lines or word(s) to explore the poem's theme(s) and form. Your response paper may also include your personal response to the poem, or perhaps how the poem relates to others we have discussed in class. In your response, you should engage closely with the chosen line(s) or word(s) and offer specific reasons in support of your response. Your response should not be a paraphrase of the poem; instead, you should use your selection to argue for your reading of the poem.

I will assign a grade for your response papers at the end of the semester; so, please keep them in a separate folder. You will turn in this folder during the last full week of class.
Class Participation and Attendance:
Read everything, and come to class prepared to talk about what you have read. On the first day of class discussion for each assignment, you must have finished the reading and be ready to discuss it. This class will be based on discussion, so class participation is expected, and will count for 10% of your final grade. Class attendance is required. You are granted two absences, but more than two will lower your final grade by one grade increment for each absence (e.g., B+ would become B). I appreciate your offering explanations for absences; however, the only way to excuse an absence is to provide me with an official letter from the dean. You cannot earn credit for work missed in class. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to discover what went on that day. "I didn't know because I wasn't in class" is never an acceptable excuse.
Leading Class Discussion:
Once during the semester, each of you (working in pairs) will initiate our class discussion and sustain it for about 10 minutes. This activity has two goals: to make the classroom more interactive and collaborative, and to encourage you to ask the sort of questions that can lead you to a reading of a poem. Discussion-leaders, please note: you will be leading discussion of the poem marked by an asterisk (*). (During the second week of class, each pair will sign up for a specific day.)
On the day you lead discussion, you will need to do the following:


Choose a specific passage or two as a focus for your question or questions. Note: while your question can (and should) lead us to other areas in the poem, select a specific place from which to launch our discussion.


Develop discussion questions on some issues or ideas you think we should address. Discussion questions should have more than one possible answer, and should lead to other questions. For example, the question "What is the meter of this poem?" is not a discussion question; the question "How does the meter of the poem contribute to its theme?" is a discussion question. Note: While your discussion questions should point us towards a reading of the poem, your questions can certainly be ones to which you do not yet have complete answers. For example, you may wonder why in Shakespeare's sonnet 18 the speaker compares his beloved to a summer's day; your question for the class might address this issue by calling our attention to one of the several comparisons within the sonnet and asking us how the beloved fares in the comparison.


Make an outline of your discussion, including the passage(s) you intend to focus on, and the questions you will ask. Your outline needs to reach me 24 hours in advance of class: email it to me or put it in my box in Benson.

Computing - Daedalus, the Garland Microcomputer Lab, and Email:
Over the course of the semester, we will meet several times in the Garland Microcomputer Lab, where you will participate in various activities using the Daedalus Integrated Writing Environment.
Send me an email message by Tuesday, January 13th. My email address is Philip.W.Nel@Vanderbilt.Edu. If you need help establishing an email account and learning to use email, please go to Academic Computing and Information Services (in the little round Stevenson building) to find out what you have to do. I will not require you to use email again, but I encourage you to use email as a way of touching base with me about your writing. You can send me queries, your thesis statement, an outline for an essay, or anything else that could be handled with a quick exchange of messages. Since I do not have a computer on campus, I tend to check email first thing in the morning, and again in the evening (probably several times).
You will all meet with me at least twice during the semester: once after the first paper, and once before the fourth paper. That's "at least twice" - if you need to see me for whatever reason, please do. Either stop by during office hours, or make an appointment. My office is on the fourth floor of Benson, room 425. I also hold "virtual office hours": email me at Philip.W.Nel@Vanderbilt.Edu.


Paper #1 and Revision of Paper #1


Paper #2 and Revision of Paper #2


Paper #3


Paper #4


Response Papers (12)


Leading Class Discussion


Class Participation


Final Exam






Schedule of Assignments
(subject to change)
The page numbers following topics in bold refer to sections of M. H. Abrams's A Glossary of Literary Terms.
Remember to bring to class the texts under discussion, including any Xeroxed poems.
* = Leading Class Discussion. R = Response Paper option. [X] = Xerox Copy (on reserve).
January W 7 Intro.: William Carlos Williams, "This Is Just to Say"; cummings, "l(a"; Shakespeare, Sonnet 73
F 9 Tone and Diction: 155-57, 163-64; Jonson, "Still to Be Neat"R; Atwood, "You Fit Into Me" [X]

M 12 Swift, "A Description of the Morning"; Houseman, "Eight O'Clock" [X]
W 14 Imagery and Figurative Language: 86-87, 66-70; Keats, "To Autumn"R; Dickinson, 280 ("I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,")
F 16 Heaney, "Digging"R; Simic, "Watch Repair"
GARLAND LAB SESSION: Meet at the Microcomputer Lab in Garland Hall.

M 19 Sound, Meter, Rhyme: 138-39, 112-17, 184-87; Blake, "London"R; Brooks, "We Real Cool"; Davison, "Peaches"
W 21 GARLAND LAB SESSION: Meet at the Microcomputer Lab in Garland Hall.
Paper #1 DUE (3 pp.) Bring 3 copies and your computer disk.
F 23 Poetic Forms: The Sonnet. 197-98; Norton, lxxiii-lxxv; Spenser, Sonnet 75R; Sidney, Sonnet 1; Drayton, Sonnet 6; Shakespeare, Sonnets 18 and 130

M 26 Conferences: This week, meet in my office at the time you've chosen.
W 28 Wordsworth, "Scorn Not the Sonnet"; Keats, "On the Sonnet"; Frost, "Design"R
F 30 Variations on Form: 34-35; Herbert, "Easter Wings"; Hollander, "Swan and Shadow"R; Swenson, "Cardinal Ideograms" R; Hine, "Riddle"
Revision of Paper #1 DUE (3 pp.)

February M 2 Poems on Poetry: Moore, "Poetry"R; MacLeish, "Ars Poetica"; Stevens, "Of Modern Poetry" [X]R
GARLAND LAB SESSION: Meet at the Microcomputer Lab in Garland Hall.
W 4 Stevens, "Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour" [X] R
Language: Ashbery, "Paradoxes and Oxymorons" [X]R; Koch, "Permanently"
F 6 GARLAND LAB SESSION: Meet at the Microcomputer Lab in Garland Hall.
Paper #2 DUE (5 pp.): Bring 3 copies.

M 9 Atwood, "Variations on the Word Love" [X]R*; Dove, "Parsley" R
W 11 Love and Desire: Herrick, "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time"; Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress"R
F 13 Donne, "Elegy XIX. To His Mistress Going to Bed"R

M 16 Relationships: Millay, "I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed"R*; Glück, "The Garden"; Frost, "The Subverted Flower" [X]R
W 18 Frost, "Home Burial" [X]R; Bill Morrissey, "Birches" [X];
F 20 Paula Cole, "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" [X]; Carver, "The Gift" [X]
Revision of Paper #2 DUE (5 pp.)

M 23 Memory: Hart Crane, "My Grandmother's Love Letters"R*
W 25 Jarrell, "Thinking of the Lost World" [X]R
F 27 T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"R*


March M 9 "(No ideas / but in things)": 88; Pound, "In a Station of the Metro"; William Carlos Williams, "The Red Wheelbarrow" and "A Sort of Song"R; H. D., "Sea Rose" and "Oread" [X]
GARLAND LAB SESSION: Meet at the Microcomputer Lab in Garland Hall. Bring your computer disk.
W 11 Roethke, "Root Cellar" and "Dolor" [X]R*
F 13 Simic, "Shirt" [X], "The Cold" [X], and "A Book Full of Pictures"

M 16 America: Whitman, "Beat! Beat! Drums!"; Longfellow, from "The Building of the Ship" [X]; Leonard Cohen, "Democracy" [X]R
W 18 Video: "The American Dream" from The United States of Poetry [X]
F 20 Whitman, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"R*; Ginsberg, "America" [X], and "A Supermarket in California" [X]

M 23 Ginsberg, "Howl" incl. parts II and III [X]R*
W 25 NO CLASS: Work on Paper #3.
F 27 cummings, "'next to of course god america i"R and "a salesman is an it that stinks excuse" [X]

M 30 Dunbar, "We Wear the Mask"R; Cullen, "Incident"; Langston Hughes, "Harlem"
GARLAND LAB SESSION: Meet at the Microcomputer Lab in Garland Hall. Bring your computer disk.
April W 1 Razaf and Waller, "Black and Blue" [X]; Soyinka, "Telephone Conversation"; Langston Hughes, "Harlem Sweeties"
F 3 Langston Hughes, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," and "Theme for English B"R*
Paper #3 DUE (6 pp.)

M 6 Vocation and Work: Rich, "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" and "Snapshots of a Daughter in Law"R; Swenson, "Motherhood"
GARLAND LAB SESSION: Meet at the Microcomputer Lab in Garland Hall. Bring your computer disk.
W 8 Rich, "Diving Into the Wreck" R
F 10 Sandburg, "Chicago"*; Levine, "You Can Have It" and "What Work Is" [X]R

M 13 Philip Levine, The Simple Truth R
W 15 The Simple Truth R
F 17 The Simple Truth R
Paper #4 DUE (6 pp.)

M 20 Review

W 29 3 PM, here (CE 208): FINAL EXAM

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Last updated 23 April 1998.