ENG10120 How to Read Poetry

Academic Year 2023/2024

This Level 1 seminar-style course aims to introduce beginning students to the mechanics of reading poetry. It is unashamedly rooted in close reading, and each session will be focused on two or three key poems. In each class, we will develop a full, detailed, analysis of the chosen texts, attending to how a wide variety of formal elements generate their multi-layered meanings. By the end of the module, the aim is that you will bring all the elements of analysis together with confidence as you develop ways of writing intelligently about poems. Students will be expected to read more widely around a given genre, type or form - for example, in order to start to understand the power of allusion, and the various levels at which this might work. You will be encouraged to consider historical and material contexts as key determinants of meaning. The module will aim to teach across a broad historical range, and will focus both on canonical and less well-known poems, as well as asking questions about canon formation, aesthetics, and so on.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

1. To help students master a basic critical vocabulary for the analysis of poetry, acquainting students with resources for the study of poetry which are also likely to promote their critically-informed reading of literature more generally.
2. To encourage students to engage fully with textual and linguistic complexity.
3. To empower students as readers of poetry and to build confidence in their interpretive abilities, whilst engendering a love for poetry and its expressive possibilities.
4. To acquaint students with key poems and forms in the history of poetry.
5. To help students to understand how poems function on their own terms, and in relation to the social, material, and ideological systems of which they are a part.
6. To develop students' capacities to write effectively and fluently on poetry.

Indicative Module Content:

Each week, we will attend to a particular aspect of poetic analysis (eg, sound, meaning and pattern; denotation and connotation; rhythm and meter; figurative language, etc), integrating it with aspects already covered and gradually building a fully-equipped poetry-reading toolkit.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
All classes will be conducted as seminars. This means that the teaching and learning in these sessions will be interactive and participatory, as we work together to try to understand how poems work. These sessions will combine whole-group discussion and small-group work. Outside class, students are asked to read poetry as widely as possible (a set anthology will be used as starting point for this reading, to which regular reference will be made in class). Students may be asked to keep a notebook recording their impressions of the material they are encountering, along with the questions and connections this material stimulates. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Continuous Assessment: Individual and group-work contribution by the student (either online or face to face) + a series of formative writing exercises Throughout the Trimester n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Essay: Essay (length: 2,000 - 2,500 words) Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Journal: A weekly commonplace book in response to prompts provided by the module co-ordinator. Throughout the Trimester n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

- Regular individual feedback on continuous-assessment written exercises throughout the semester. as well as in-class large-group feedback on this work. - regular individual and group oral feedback on ideas developed during seminar discussion. - Individual formal written feedback on the mid-semester assignment (after week 7) and on the end-of-semester essay (after the assessment period for the semester concerned). - All students are strongly encouraged to attend one-to-one oral feedback meetings on both their mid-semester assessment and end-of semester essay.

Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke (eds), The Map and the Clock - a Laureate's Choice of the Poetry of Britain and Ireland (Faber, 2016).
Name Role
Professor Danielle Clarke Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Catríona Clutterbuck Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Danielle Clarke Tutor
Dr Catherine Kilcoyne Tutor