Professor Stephen Bluestone
Office: 110B Ware Hall | Telephone: 478-301-4010 | email:
Office Hours: 9:30-10:40 a.m. (T/Th) and by appointment
FYS 101 Fall 2009
English 237 Fall 2009
English 333 Fall 2009
FYS 102 Spring 2009
English 235 Spring 2009
English 382 Spring 2009
FYS 101 Fall 2008
English 237 Fall 2008
English 332 Fall 2008
FYS 102  Spring 2008
English 235 Spring 2008
English 340 Spring 2008
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English 235
The Study of Poetry
  • Hunter (ed), The Norton Introduction to Poetry

  • The Little, Brown Handbook (any recent edition will do)

Download Prep Sheet



The subject of this course is “The Study of Poetry.” The poetry to be studied will be selected from the Hunter anthology plus other sources. The main focus of the course will be on developing an understanding of poetic form and technique. We will look at the ways in which every poem has both a personal and a general aspect (for example, at how poems are related to other poems) and at how language works in a poem. Though the goals of the course are quite specific, the organization of the course, at least for the first half of the semester, will be loose. I prefer to teach poetry by going where the material leads us, allowing it to surprise us as we study it. During the second half of the semester, our schedule will become much tighter. Class reports and reading material will be assigned on a strict due-date basis. Throughout the course, assignments will be given on a class-by-class basis.

Please understand, however, that the amount of reading done will be the same as the amount the class would do on a rigid schedule. We will read a few selected poems closely in this class rather than a large quantity of poems. But the reading list will be open and flexible, since much that happens in a course like this involves discovery and surprise. Often a discussion of a poem or group of poems will take several class sessions, since new ideas will lead to new insights and require more class time than originally planned for the material. My goal in this class is to have enjoyable and serious discussions that are open to possibilities neither I nor my students can anticipate. If one of the charms of poetry is surprise, then a class on poetry should be open to the unpredictable.

Class participation, preparation, quizzes, and attendance (15%). Students are expected to attend every class and actively contribute to discussion. There are no unexcused absences; attendance will be taken at all classes, and I should be notified in person or by e-mail, telephone, or note if an absence is unavoidable. Students who do not participate in discussion tend to place a burden on those who do. Therefore participation in class discussion is essential. To further this goal, preparation materials will be distributed at the time of certain assignments. These materials will then be completed and brought to class. These prep sheets will be collected and graded.(See attached sample with this syllabus.) (Further note: Students with personal reasons for classroom non-participation should contact me at the start of the semester.) In addition, quizzes on material covered in class (terms, vocabulary, issues raised by specific poems, etc.) will be given from time to time.

Class contribution takes several forms. Students may ask questions at any point during a class; students and teacher may engage in question-and-answer sessions; the class as a whole may engage in open discussion, sharing ideas and attempting as a group to deepen our understanding of the material. Students should work at participating effectively in all these formats.

Oral presentations (25%) will be made to the class by students of selected material. These presentations will occur after mid-term and will be of a formal nature; they will cover the following: (1) the biographical background of the poet selected; (2) the form of the poem or poems discussed; (3) a summary and evaluation of a scholarly article or chapter in a book on the presented poem or poems; and (4) a general discussion of the important issues raised by the poem or poems. As part of the oral presentation presenters will be expected to lead a class discussion. These presentations will be graded on the basis of performance in the four categories just mentioned.

Written work (60%). Several critical papers will be assigned on themes and topics to be discussed; one of these papers (the final project) will be between eight and ten pages and will involve scholarly research using at least two off-line secondary critical sources. The final paper may be based on the oral presentation (see above). The due date of the final paper will be Thursday May 1, 2008, at 5 p.m. This paper may be submitted earlier, at the student’s option.

In any paper in which I specify research, the format of the first sample student paper in The Little, Brown Handbook in the chapter entitled “Two Research Papers in the MLA Style,” is to be followed; bibliographic and “Works Cited” formats are to be found in the chapter entitled “Using MLA Documentation and Format.” Any paper that has not been spell-checked or does not follow the assigned formats will receive an automatic “F.” All corrections and editorial changes indicated by the instructor must be made before the next paper is submitted and checked by the instructor, otherwise the grade on the following paper will be "F." As above, no exceptions

When a paper is submitted, it must be accompanied in a plain tab folder by previous papers. All papers are due at the start of class from the author on the specified due date; papers not handed in on time will be penalized no less than one letter grade per day. Please note: all previous written work submitted for a grade, including extra-credit work, must accompany the final paper in the folder at the end of the course.

The grading system. Grades on the papers (and in the course) will not necessarily be averaged; much weight will be given to improvement. Each student's written and class work will be assessed on an individual basis, with emphasis on consistency and the ability to achieve higher standards as the course proceeds. I call this method of grading the “outcome basis.” It gives each student a chance to have his or her learning over the course of the term count for more at the end. In my opinion, this is a more accurate measure of learning in a literature course than the averaging basis. I believe, in addition, that this approach allows each individual student to make the strongest possible case for an “A” by offering opportunities to do extra-credit work, which could consist of response papers to poetry readings, short essays on subjects of a student’s choosing that relate to issues raised in the course, outside reading, etc.

On the other hand, if you wish to have your grades averaged, you may select that option. This must be done at the start of the semester by the second week of the class and cannot subsequently be changed. The averaging basis weighs all work numerically. It tells you where you are, but does not, in my opinion, reflect your true learning curve, as the “outcome basis’ does.

Note: it is course policy that all assigned work be completed in order for a student to pass this course.

Further note: An optional final exam is available for those who select it. In my opinion, only those students who feel they are between grades should select this option. The grade on this exam will be used to determine which of two grades (higher or lower) the student will receive.

Conferences. These will be arranged as needed. I am available to see you on a flexible basis and not necessarily during fixed office hours. Let me know in advance, and we can arrange appointments.

Special circumstances. Students with learning disabilities that might affect grading in this course are advised to notify the instructor at the start of the semester.


It goes without saying that the Mercer Honor Code is in effect at all times in this course.