Fall 2015 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Cohen, Milton
Discipline and Number
LIT 3314 Section 001
MW Time 1:00 PM - 2:15 PM
Course Title

Description of Course:

Can there be too much of a good thing? Not where Shakespeare's sonnets are concerned. Often called the most beautiful love poetry in English, this collection of 154 poems in fact spans a universe of sensibility, where lofty musings on time and mutability repose next to deeply personal expressions of love and desire, where a witty word-play (verbal foreplay?) follows a cri de cœur. While several sonnets cluster around a particular theme, each is distinctive in its crafting, unique in its expression.

Of the 70 sonnets we'll read this semester, about 25 classics will receive close analysis for their thematic intricacies and aesthetic pleasures. The remaining 45 or so we'll read thematically for the many facets of love they express concerning the poet's entangled relations with an unnamed young man and a "dark" woman. We shall begin by tracing the sonnet's development from Petrarch through the Elizabethan sonneteers.

Virtually all students of poetry have tasted a few of these delicacies (typically in a breathless survey course). In this course, they may sup to satiety.

Required Texts:

The Sonnets (The New Cambridge Shakespeare), ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Cambridge)
Babette Deutsch, Poetry Handbook: A Dictionary of Terms (Harper-Row)

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Students will explicate and analyze one sonnet orally or in writing. (The oral presentation includes an interpretive reading and should last about 20 minutes; the written version should be about 5 pages.) A 6-8 page research analysis of another sonnet is also required. Class participation counts heavily.

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