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The University of Southampton

ENGL1004 Poetic Language

Module Overview

How do we read poems, and what language can we use to describe our readings? This module will provide a detailed introduction to the particular qualities your ear, eye and brain will need to read poetry more effectively. You will study key features of poetic language in detail, including metre, sound, voice, rhetoric and tone. You will also be introduced to various genres that make play with these features, from repetition in the ballad form to the shifting voices of the lyric. You will have the opportunity to read poems from many periods and traditions, from the medieval riddle to the postmodern elegy. The aim of this module is not to help you make inventories: a successful reading of a poem is more than a technical exercise or a prose paraphrase. You will read a selection of criticism during the module, and consider how poetry’s peculiar alchemy might be described in words. By building your confidence in poetic language, you will sharpen your appetite and develop your taste for poetry in all its forms.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Strategies for reading, understanding and writing about poetry
  • Significant differences among poetic practices in select periods of literary history, such as the Renaissance, Romanticism and Modernism
  • The vocabulary for the study of poetry, such as metres, figures of language, lineation and aural devices
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Recognize and analyse poetic forms and effects
  • Read poetry critically and with increased pleasure
  • Write clear and convincing explications of poetry
  • Appreciate the effects of historical and social context in the creation and reception of poetry
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Read and analyse texts that sometimes operate illogically and non-discursively
  • Write short essays that aim for clarity and correctness
  • Work with others to examine textual meanings
  • Express your views in a small-group setting
  • Scan poetry
  • Use the Oxford English Dictionary


The first section of the module will focus on the building blocks of poetic language; sound figure, metre and voice. The second section will explore how close attention to a poem’s tonal shifts, rhetorical ambiguities, allusions and critical reception can help enrich your reading. Each week, we will consider the topic with reference to a particular form or genre; in this way, your understanding of allusion will also introduce you to epic poetry, and your navigation of voice can help you explore the lyric. Short preparation tasks for each seminar and group discussion will help develop your confidence in reading poetry.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • Seminars • Individual tutorials, as needed Learning activities include • Careful, repeated reading of poems as assigned • Reading of supplementary materials • Participating in seminar discussion • Writing essays • Making individual and small-group presentations This module includes a Learning Support Hour. This is a flexible weekly contact hour, designed to support and respond to the particular cohort taking the module from year to year. This hour will include (but not be limited to) activities such as language, theory and research skills classes; group work supervisions; assignment preparation and essay writing guidance; assignment consultations; feedback and feed-forward sessions.

Follow-up work14
Preparation for scheduled sessions52
Completion of assessment task33
Wider reading or practice15
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

John Strachan and Richard Terry (2011). Poetry. 

The Norton Anthology of Poetry. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1000 words) 40%
Essay  (2000 words) 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1000 words) 40%
Essay  (2000 words) 60%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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