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Course Details

Fall 2018-2019
* ENG 405 (LA)   No Pass/D/Fail

Topics in Poetry - Poetry and Belief

Jeff Dolven


What does it mean to believe a poem? To believe in a poem? Can a poem itself have, or carry, beliefs--moral, religious, political, scientific? We often take poetry to be a space of ambiguity and play, where certainty is suspended, but it is also a uniquely powerful form of speech, and has long been used for credos, manifestos, prayers. These are the questions of our seminar, questions we will pursue with the help both of poets (Milton, Dickinson, Moten) and philosophers (Popper, Ricoeur, Anscombe). The seminar will move back and forth between poetry of past and present, between the beliefs of others and our own.

Sample reading list:
John Milton, Paradise Lost
Emily Dickinson, Poems
Claudia Rankine, Citizen
G.E.M. Anscombe, Intention
Paul Ricoeur, Critque and Conviction
Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery
See instructor for complete list

Reading/Writing assignments:
Weekly short essays and imitations and a final, 10pp. paper (25% of final grade).

Paper in lieu of Final - 25%
Class/Precept Participation - 25%
Other (See Instructor) - 50%

Other Requirements:
Community-Engaged Learning Component Required

Prerequisites and Restrictions:
The seminar, organized through the Prison Teaching Initiative, will meet inside prison walls, and will be jointly composed of Princeton students and inmates. Applicants should expect additional travel and preparation time, and will need to obtain clearances from the Department of Corrections prior to the start of the class (with assistance from PTI).

Other information:
Distribution Requirement: Modernity. This course is co-taught by Professor Jeff Dolven and graduate student Matthew Rickard through the Collaborative Teaching Initiative. To apply to this seminar, students should email by 4/23 with a paragraph describing their motivations for taking this course, as well as any previous work they've engaged in with the criminal justice system (although students with no previous experience in this area are also welcome to apply).

Schedule/Classroom assignment:

Class numberSectionTimeDaysRoomEnrollmentStatus
21237 S01 06:00:00 pm - 08:30:00 pm W   No Room Needed   NO ROOM   Enrolled:6 Limit:15