GLS 592: Lying Our Way to the Truth: The Personal Narrative in Poetry
Instructor: Ashley E. Hudson
“Poetry is a kind of lying, necessarily.”
— Jack Gilbert
“Tell all the Truth but tell it slant.”
— Emily Dickinson
It has long been a complaint among poets that the reader is more interested in a poet’s personal life than in the poems themselves. Yet a poet does not have a truth-telling contract with the reader the way a memoirist might. This course will examine the reader’s impulse to view poetry as autobiography. We will question what this impulse says about our culture and our relationship to literature. Through a brief history of confessional poetry and a selection of poets who struggle with the readers’ perception of autobiography in their poems, this course will expose the student to the problems and possibilities of the personal narrative in poetry. We’ll read essays written by poets about their own work, listen to interviews, and contrast poets’ personal journals with their poems in order to examine how truthful autobiography finds its way into poems. Several published poets will contribute insight into their use of autobiography in their poems. This course will develop a student’s deeper understanding of the process through which personal experience becomes art, how poets go about getting at the larger truth with the smaller lies.
This course will emphasize reading and discussion with emphasis on the development of critical thinking skills related to the subject matter. Written requirements include brief critical responses (2 pages) concerning reading material, and a research guided paper (8-10 pages) on a topic related to material discussed in class. No prior poetry writing experience necessary.
After Confession: poetry as autobiography, edited by Kate Sontag and David Graham
Last Update: March 7, 2013