Isobel Armstrong and Bob Perelman to Teach Graduate Courses on Poetry in Princeton’s English Department this Fall

image_previewIsobel Armstrong is the author of  Victorian Glassworlds: Glass Culture and the Imagination, The Radical Aesthetic, Women’s Poetry, Late Romantic to Late Victorian: Gender and Genre, and Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Politics and Poetics. She is an internationally renowned critic of nineteenth-century poetry, literature, and women’s writing, Emeritus Professor of English at Birkbeck, University of London, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of English Studies at the University of London, and a Fellow of the British Academy.


Perelman cropped Bob Perelman, Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, has published over 15 volumes of poetry, most recently The Future of Memory (Roof Books) and Ten to One: Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press). His critical work focuses on poetry and modernism. His critical books are The Marginalization of Poetry: Language Writing and Literary History (Princeton University Press) and The Trouble with Genius: Reading Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky (University of California Press). He has edited Writing/Talks (Southern Illinois University Press), a collection of talks by poets.

It is with great excitement that we welcome Isobel Armstrong and Bob Perelman into Princeton’s English Department for the upcoming fall semester. Professors Armstrong and Perelman will be teaching the following courses:

Special Studies in the 19th Century: Poetry: From Phantasmagoria to Photography (ENG 553)

Isobel Mair Armstrong

This course is about the poetics of the lens and the mirror and their immanent presence in Romantic and Victorian poetry by men and women. The optical culture created by lens-made technologies developed from the late Enlightenment onwards saw the “high” science of the telescope and the microscope migrate to the popular screen images of the phantasmagoria, diorama, panorama, kaleidoscope and a host of optical toys exploiting visual ambiguities. Technologies of the lens and the mirror, from the phantasmagoria to photography, from astronomy to the magic lantern, had repercussions across aesthetics and politics. (Tuesdays 9:00 AM – 11:50 AM)

Course Details

Poetics: Modernist Poetics and its Discontents (ENG 563)

Robert Perelman

The disjunction between the poetics and the poetry of the modernist period is striking. The poetics–as articulated in statements by Pound, Stein, Eliot, Williams, Zukofsky, Olson–are fascinating, but they make equivocal guides to the writing itself. Stein’s lecture on <I>Tender Buttons</I> sheds only anecdotal light on that recalcitrant text; Zukofsky’s terse essays on poetry are of little help in reading the linguistic exuberance of his poetry; etc. We read, via exemplary excerpts, both sides of these improbable equations. (Wednesdays 9:00 AM – 11:50 AM).

Course Details

For a listing of this fall’s course offerings in poetry across university departments, please see our current course offerings page.

Spring 2016 Course Offerings in Poetry!

We have much to look forward to in the upcoming semester’s exciting variety of course offerings in poetry across departments!


Homer (CLG 108)

Joshua D. Fincher

To learn to read Homer with pleasure. Introduction to Homeric dialect, oral poetry, and meter; discussion of literary technique, historical background to the epics, and Homer’s role in the development of Greek thought.

Creative Writing: Poetry (CWR 202)

Michael Dickman, Meghan O’Rourke, James Richardson, Tracy K. Smith, Monica Youn

Practice in the original composition of poetry supplemented by the reading and analysis of standard works. Criticism by practicing writers and talented peers encourages the student’s growth as both creator and reader of literature. This class is open to beginning and intermediate students by application.

Advanced Creative Writing: Poetry (CWR 302)

Marie Howe, Paul Muldoon

Advanced practice in the original composition of poetry for discussion in regularly scheduled workshop meetings. The curriculum allows the student to develop writing skills, provides an introduction to the possibilities of contemporary literature and offers perspective on the places of literature among the liberal arts.

Czeslaw Milosz: Poetry, Politics, History (SLA 395/ RES 395)

Irena G. Gross

Polish-American poet Czeslaw Milosz won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1980. In this seminar, which combines textual analyses, history of literature and intellectual history, we will speak on the basis of his major works (and some of his contemporaries – Seamus Heaney, Joseph Brodsky, Derek Walcott), about World War II, Polish-Russian relations, global dominance of English-language poetry, growth of high culture in the United States, and the decline of exile. (Wednesday 1:30-4:20 PM)

Dante’s Inferno (ITA 303/ MED 303)

Simone Marchesi

Intensive study of the “Inferno”, with major attention paid to poetic elements such as structure, allegory, narrative technique, and relation to earlier literature, principally the Latin classics. Course conducted in English with highly interactive classes and preceptorials. One precept in Italian will be scheduled on a need-to-be basis. (Tuesday and Thursday 11:00 AM – 12:20 PM)

Life is Short, Art is Really Short (CWR 315)

James Richardson

All literature is short – compared to our lives, anyway – but we’ll be concentrating on poetry and prose at their very shortest. The reading will include proverbs, aphorisms, greguerias, one-line poems, riddles, jokes, fragments, haiku, epigrams and microlyrics. Imagism, contemporary shortists, prose poems, various longer works assembled from small pieces, and possibly even flash fiction. Students will take away from the thrift and edge of these literary microorganisms a new sense of what can be left out of your work and new ideas about how those nebulae of pre-draft in your notebooks might condense into stars and constellations. (Thursday 1:30-4:20)

Milton (ENG 325)

Russell J. Leo

We will explore John Milton’s entire career, largely as poet, but also as prose writer and thinker: a lifelong effort to unite the aims of intellectual, political and literary experimentation. In doing so Milton made himself the most influential non-dramatic poet in the English language. We will spend much time with Paradise Lost, regarded by many as the greatest non-dramatic poem in English or any modern language; we will encounter Milton’s profound, extensive learning and his startling innovations with words, and in ideas of personal, domestic and communal liberty. (Monday and Wednesday 10:00-10:50 AM).

Vergil’s Aeneid (LAT 333)

Yelena Baraz

This course will concentrate on the role of topography and landscape in the poem. Students will be required to participate in a trip to Italy over Spring Break. (Monday and Wednesday 1:30 PM -2:50 PM)

Verse in Shows: Poetry on Stage, 405 B.C.E- 2015 A.D. (ENG 384/ THR 338)

Stuart J. Sherman

From Attic tragedies to Broadway musicals, verse forms have been central to the way theater works. Playwrights have deployed them to deliver powerful, sometimes subliminal effects to the ears of audiences well-versed in registering them. In plays ranging from Euripides’ Bakkhai through Elizabethan and Restoration theater to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, we’ll look at, and above all listen for, the intricate interactions of verse, prose, and song, trying to work out how they may have operated on their original audiences (whose ears were often in such matters more acute than ours), and how we can make sense of and savor them now. (Tuesday and Thursday 1:30-2:50 PM)

Lyric Language and Form II: The Modern Period (COM 422/ ENG 423/ GER 422/ FRE 422)

Claudia Joan Brodsky

This course is the continuation of a 2-semester sequence for undergraduates and graduate students, but may be taken independently of the fall semester course (COM 421). We will focus on reading major poets of the modern period in English, French, German and Spanish with additional readings in the theoretical reflections on modernity, poetry, and the arts written by several of the poets we read. These include: Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Rilke, Celan, Garcia Lorca, Pax, Borges, Stevens, Bishop and Ashbery, among others. Secondary readings will include essays by major theorists and critics. (Monday 1:30-4:20 PM)

Classical Arabic Poetry (NES 527/ COM 508)

Lara Harb

This course introduces students to the major Arabic poets and poems from the pre-Islamic period up to and including the Mamluk period. The goal of the course is twofold: to increase the ease with which students are able to read classical Arabic poetry and to expand their knowledge of the various styles, genres and their development. Besides preparing the assigned poems, students are expected each week to put together a brief biographical sketch of the poets we are reading using primary sources exclusively. (This could be done collaboratively) Advanced knowledge of Arabic required. (Wednesday 1:30 – 4:20 PM).

French Modernist Poetry (FRE 525)

Efthymia Rentzou

This course investigates Modernist poetics in France from mid-19th to mid-20th c. and seeks to re-evaluate Modernism in French literary history. Course will treat the topic at a variety of interrelated levels by exploring French poetry as part of the broad historical phenomenon of Modernism, while examining the specific ways it materialized in France as formal innovation and as response to modernity. Seminal poets such as Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Apollinaire, and Cendrars, will be discussed as well as specific movements. Readings and theoretical questions will also address the complex relationship between avant-garde and Modernism. (In English) (Wednesday 1:30-4:30 PM)

Modern European Fiction & Poetry (COM 559/ FRE 558)

David M. Bellos

A study of 20th century writing in European languages relying to some degree on the principle of constraint or ‘strict form’. Queneau, Calvino, Mathews, Perec, Roubaud and other members of Oulipo will constitute the central focus, but depending on students’ linguistic competences works by e.g., Harig, Kharms, Nabokov, Cortazar may be included. Attention is focussed on underlying principles as well as on practice and product. (Tuesday 1:30-4:20 PM)

Poetics: 19thC English and American Poetry: New Tools, New Archives (ENG 563)

Meredith Martin and Meredith McGill

Histories of 19th-C poetry are generally keyed to books and anthologies–breakthrough volumes, collected works, and influential collections. Yet a great deal of this poetry was printed in or supported by the circulation of periodicals, creating dynamic poetic cultures that were provisional, collaborative, and transatlantic. In this course we tackle head-on what the new availability of these resources means for the study of British and American poetry. How might the digitization of magazines, newspapers, and print ephemera change canonical literary histories? (Monday 1:30-4:20 PM)

The Evolution of Russian Poetic Form (SLA 512)

Michael A. Wachtel

The course serves as an introduction to Russian verse forms and genres. Considerable attention is given to translations into Russian (and conceivably out of Russian) to understand the qualities of Russian poetry that distinguish it from other European verse traditions (English, German, French, Italian). To some extent exemplary texts are chosen in conjunction with students’ linguistic competencies and interests. (Thursday 1:30-4:20 PM).