MAPH Poetics Seminar

Autumn 2018-2019


John Wilkinson

In this course, we will study poetry in the abstract and in particular. In addition to reading individual poems (and books of poetry), 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 linguistic and historical practice, from Plato to Poststructuralism and beyond. But we will also question the very enterprise 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 literary works themselves? Are all attempts to construct a poetics necessarily polemical? Or does every poem arise from an implicit poetics, even when its author would disavow such theoretical ambitions? Contemporary debates between historical and philosophical poetics will be used as an entryway to our seminar debates, together with a small archive of poems.