English prosody and poetics

My individual graduate tutorial, English Prosody and Poetics, 1300-1600 (syllabus), will run this spring. This tutorial is a practical and theoretical introduction to issues in late medieval and sixteenth-century poetics. Here are the learning objectives for each unit:

1. Introduction to Verse History and Historical Poetics

Learning objectives: Theoretical understanding of the history of metrical study and the key concepts ‘rhythm’ and ‘meter’; comparison of intrinsic (formal/practical) and extrinsic (historical/cultural) approaches to metrical form; practical understanding of modern syllabic meters.

2. The Alliterative Tradition in its Eighth Century

Learning objectives: Theoretical understanding of the history and cultural contexts of the alliterative meter in the late medieval period; comparison of competing explanations for the existence of fourteenth-century alliterative poetry; comparison of the use of the alliterative meter in two compositions, Piers Plowman and St. Erkenwald; practical understanding of alliterative b-verse meter.

3. Chaucer’s Tetrameter

Learning objectives: Theoretical understanding of the history and cultural contexts of the tetrameter or octosyllable in the fourteenth century; comparison of more and less strictly syllabic accentual English meters; practical understanding of template meter or dolnik.

4 & 5. Chaucer’s Pentameter, Tail Rhyme, and Prose

Learning objectives: Theoretical understanding of the history and cultural contexts of Chaucer’s decasyllable/pentameter in the fourteenth century; comparison of Chaucer’s several meters and two staged discussions of form (after Sir Thopas and in the Parson’s Prologue); understanding of the relationships between metrical form and manuscript form in Sir Thopas; comparison of Chaucer’s metrical choices in the larger context of his ‘metrical landscape’; practical understanding of Chaucer’s decasyllable/pentameter.

6. Chaucer’s Pentameter in the Fifteenth Century

Learning objectives: Theoretical understanding of the history and cultural contexts of Chaucer’s decasyllable/pentameter in the fifty years following Chaucer’s death; comparison of Chaucer’s metrical habits to those of his literary heirs, Hoccleve and Lydgate; understanding of the critical uses of, and historical problems with, the concept of a ‘Chaucerian tradition’ extending into the fifteenth century; practical understanding of Lydgate’s decasyllable/pentameter.

7. (Chaucer’s) Pentameter in the Sixteenth Century

Learning objectives: Theoretical understanding of the history and cultural contexts of the decasyllable/pentameter in the sixteenth century; comparison of Chaucer’s metrical habits to those of Wyatt, Surrey, and Shakespeare; understanding of Martin Duffell’s concept of ‘the Italian line in English,’ with reference both to Chaucer and later versifiers; critical scrutiny of sixteenth-century perceptions of earlier and contemporary meter as expressed by Gascoigne and Puttenham; practical understanding of Wyatt’s decasyllable/pentameter.

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