'A moment's monument': Capturing time, place and feeling in the sonnet form

Course Dates: 03/11/23 - 08/12/23
Time: 12:30 - 14:30
Location: Keeley Street
Dante Gabriel Rossetti described the sonnet as a ‘moment’s monument’, so capturing the form’s unique mix of brevity and durability. This course charts how the sonnet has developed over more than five centuries by engaging with close reading of poetry from the Renaissance, Romantic, Victorian and modern periods. Focusing on both commonly anthologised and less familiar examples of the sonnet, it explores the form’s enduring power and adaptability.
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Full fee £149.00 Senior fee £119.00 Concession £97.00

This course has now started

Course Code: HLT311

Started Fri, day, 03 Nov - 08 Dec '23

Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)

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What is the course about?

This in-college literature course tracks the development of the sonnet from its establishment in England in the sixteenth century to the current day. Taking a broadly chronological approach, it analyses sonnets by American, English, Irish and Scottish poets, tracing how the rhythm, rhyme and structure of the form has been reshaped and repurposed over time.

Initially a love lyric, the sonnet has enlarged its scope to treat a diverse range of topics from the mundane to the metaphysical. We will look at the form’s capacity to express emotions ranging from grief, fear and anger to love, tenderness and joy, as well as how it frequently looks outwards to engage with the external world of politics, war and nature.

What will we cover?

The primary focus of the course will be close reading: an analysis of how poets employ diction, rhyme, rhythm, syntax and structure to achieve their effects. It will also consider how the sonnet has been influenced by changing historical, social and cultural conditions.

Beginning with Shakespeare, it will settle on examples from key exponents of the sonnet form across the centuries; these will include John Donne, John Milton, William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Christina Rossetti, Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay, W.B.Yeats, and Seamus Heaney. In addition, it will think about the continuing popularity of the sonnet sequence, drawing on examples such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese and Edwin Morgan’s Glasgow Sonnets.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Discuss a diverse range of sonnets in an informed and confident manner
• Identify the key technical elements of the sonnet form and their effects
• Appreciate the ability of the sonnet form to express both the inner life and the external world
• Understand how and why the sonnet form has been adapted across time.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This course is suitable for anyone interested in the close analysis of poetry. You will need to be open to exploring different interpretations and willing to listen to and engage with the views of others.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

There will be a mixture of tutor presentation and small-group and whole-class discussion. You will need to familiarise yourself with three or four sonnets in preparation for each week’s class.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

All course materials will be provided by the tutor.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

The tutor will also be teaching HLT41 Key texts of 20th and 21st century drama; HLT24 Classic Drama; HLT300 Ways of reading: aspects of narrative theory; HLT308 Shakespeare's Afterlives. For these and other literature courses, please look under History, Culture and Writing/Literature on our website at www.citylit.ac.uk.

Jenny Stevens

Jenny Stevens has taught English at both pre-university and degree level. A former Head of English, she currently combines part-time teaching with academic writing and series editing for Methuen Modern Drama editions. She has an MA in Victorian Studies and a PhD in late-Victorian literature. Her publications include ‘Faith, Fiction and the Historical Jesus’ (2010) and three co-authored Arden Shakespeare guides for undergraduate readers. Jenny is a Founding Fellow of the English Association.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.