HC 221H: Playing with Poetry

Professor: Tze-Yin Teo

4.00 credits

  • CRN 26153: Tuesday & Thursday, 1615-1745 @ REMOTE

"The toy,” wrote the French poet of modernity and decadence Charles Baudelaire, "is the child’s earliest initiation into art.” In this class, we approach poetry in the spirit of Baudelaire and other poets like him who worked through playful experimentation that pushed the boundaries of their time. By learning those rules and breaking them in equal measure, they created often stunning and provocative ways of interacting with their debts to literary tradition and its ethico-political structures of knowing, power, and capture. Students will learn the fundaments of poetics (including its associated terminology) and skills of close reading (formal analysis) through dynamic poetic exercises and, occasionally, building their own interactive mini-games. We will especially attend to how to read poetry in translation. Throughout, we imagine the poetic text as an object with which we interact—that is, we treat it as a toy and understand reading as a process of play. In playing with poetry, we build enabling habits of mind, unseat ideological patterns of thought, and guard against dogmatic impositions of thinking. Like the poets we read and transform, we will learn the rules of poetry in order to bend and break them—and in order to write something new, something better.