English 250, section 4: John Donne and T.S. Eliot: Lyric Poetry and Society

Instructor: Professor David Marno

This course fulfills the Intellectual History requirement for the DE in REMS.

“Permit me to repeat,” Adorno writes in his celebrated essay on lyric poetry’s relationship to its context, “that we are concerned not with the poet as a private person, not with his psychology or his so-called social perspective, but with the poem as a philosophical sundial telling the time of history.” In this course, we read the poetries of John Donne and T. S. Eliot to see how (or indeed whether) they tell the time of history. To raise the stakes of this exercise, we will focus on Donne’s Holy Sonnets and Eliot’s Four Quartets, ie. poems that share an investment in religion but were written under markedly different circumstances. How does a religious poem that is the product of a religious culture differ from a religious poem written in a predominantly secular society? How do poems express, resist, or ignore their immediate contexts? How do they transpose themselves in other, real of fictional contexts? And what critical tools best enable us to articulate and answer such questions? In addition to spending ample time on the poems, we will read Eliot on early modern poetry, modern critics on Donne and Eliot, and representative critical essays on lyric poetry.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes