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LIT 4930.001
Appreciating Poetry

Fall 2004
Time: Monday and Wednesday
11:00am - 12:15 pm
Room: CPR 348

Class 8

Reading Assignment:

    Sept. 20: Perrine, chs. 15-16
    Group A: Post 4


    The Toys (Perrine 270)

    Class Objectives:

  • Move from understanding poetry to evaluating poetry
  • Read and discuss examples of "Great" poetry


    As part of your preparation for this class, try to answer the questions regarding the pairs of poems in Chapter 15, especially as regards the poems "The Toys" and "Little Boy Blue."


  • Sentimentality: "indulgence in emotion for its own sake, or expression of more emotion than an occasion warrants" (262).

  • Rhetorical poetry: uses a language more glittering and high-flown than its substance warrants" (262).

  • Didactic poetry: "primary purpose is to teach.... when the didactic purpose supersedes the poetic purpose, when the poem communicates information or moral instruction only, then it ceases to be didactic poetry and becomes didactic verse" (263).



    The authors ask us to consider three questions in evaluating poetry.

  • What is the central purpose of the poem?
  • How fully has this purpose been accomplished?
  • How important is this purpose?

    We have spent a good part of the semester thus far learning how to read the poem and determine its purpose and how it achieves that purpose. Now is the time to evaluate how WELL it achieves the purpose.

    Chapter 16 suggests -- rather coyly -- that answering the last question is really a matter of extensive reading and consideration. He includes examples of "Great" poetry to read, and he implicitly challenges us to test them against the criteria of greatness he establishes: namely, do these poems engage the whole person? Do they bring new insights, important insights into human nature along with the pleasure of the poem?



    These chapters challenge us to evaluate good poetry from poor poetry, but the authors remind us that "All poetic excellence is a matter of degree. There are no absolute lines between sentimentality and true emotion, artificial and genuine eloquence, didactic verse and didactic poetry. Though the difference between extreme examples is easy to recognize, sublter discriminations are harder to make" (263).

    As you compare the poems the authors provide here, do not be as concerned with making the right "choice," as with being able to discuss the reasons why. In your discussion of the reasons -- your evaluation of the poem -- try to use some of the distinctions made in this chapter. Also put to use your knowledge of what makes poetry work -- the language, figures of speech, figures of logic, the qualities of sound and the techniques of pattern.

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