English 3203

X / X X / X X / X X
The Sound and Performance of Poetry

Fall 2004

MWF 2:30

Dr. Elizabeth McKim Usual Office Hours: M-Th 4:00-5:00
322 Edmund Casey Hall Other times by appointment or by chance.
Mailbox: EC 302  

Course Description:

Sound, it has been said, is the poem's heartbeat. It's an apt metaphor. The sound of poetry gives it life, and transforms it from mere symbols on a page to music that touches the human emotions in ways that we can barely understand. It's so powerful, in fact, that poets and scholars have spent centuries, through both art and analysis, trying to unravel its mysteries. We're going to join them. Through lecture and discussion and much reading aloud, we'll learn how to scan English verse–how to uncover the heartbeat at the core of each poem. We'll also attend to the various ways people have attempted to solve the mystery. Along the way, we'll discover that every reading of a poem, whether silent or spoken, is a performance.


Poetry and supplementary material will be provided.

You are advised to obtain a dictionary that divides words into syllables
and a guide to MLA Style.

Course Requirements:

Weekly exercises 40%
Oral performance 10%
Essay 1 (1000 words) 15%
Essay 2 (2500 words) 25%
Participation 10%

The weekly exercises are aimed at gradual skills acquisition. (For example, you might do an exercise that asks you to mark stresses and syllables or other aural features in a passage of poetry.)

The oral performance will be the recitation of the poem you analyzed in Essay 1.

Essay 1 will be an analysis of a short poem from a metrical standpoint.

Essay 2 will be an investigation of the metrical practice of a particular poet.

Assignments must be submitted on the day they are due. Late weekly work defeats the purpose, so will not be accepted unless you were absent on the day the discussion took place. A late essay will be accepted only after prior consultation and the setting of a new due date; I reserve the right not to accept a late essay. A missed performance will be treated in the same way.

Attendance is required. A sign-up sheet will circulate daily, and it is your responsibility to sign it. Students who miss more than three classes will lose the 10% participation grade. Students who miss more than six classes will receive an F for the course. Missing fewer than three classes does not guarantee that you will receive the full 10%: participation also involves playing an active role in group discussions and providing regular evidence that you have kept up with your reading, scanning, and thinking.

You are expected to arrive at class on time;
frequent lateness will be reflected in your participation grade.

September 10 Introduction and Organization
September 13 Sound and Sense Exercise #1
September 15
September 17
September 20 Beats Exercise #2
September 22
September 24
September 27 More Beats Exercise #3
September 29
October 1
October 4 Stresses Exercise #4
October 6
October 8
October 11 Thanksgiving Day
October 13 Strong Stress Verse Exercise #5
October 15
October 18 Syllable-Stress Verse Exercise #6
October 20
October 22 No Class
October 25 Four-Beat Verse  
October 27
October 29 Essay #1
November 1 Five-Beat Verse Exercise #7
November 3
November 5
November 8 Stanza Forms Exercise #8
November 10
November 12
November 15 More Stanza Forms Exercise #9
November 17
November 19
November 22 Free Verse Exercise #10
November 24
November 26  
November 29 More Free Verse  
December 1
December 3
Essay #2


Elizabeth McKim / English / Faculty / STU Homepage