Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: Lying Our Way to the Truth: The Personal Narrative in Poetry

Instructor: Ashley E. Hudson

"Poetry is a kind of lying, necessarily."
- Jack Gilbert

"Tell all the Truth but tell it slant."
- Emily Dickinson

It has long been a complaint among poets that the reader is more interested in a poet's personal life than in the poems themselves. Yet a poet does not have a truth-telling contract with the reader the way a memoirist might. This course will examine the reader's impulse to view poetry as autobiography. We will question what this impulse says about our culture and our relationship to literature. Through a brief history of confessional poetry and a selection of poets who struggle with the readers' perception of autobiography in their poems, this course will expose the student to the problems and possibilities of the personal narrative in poetry. We'll read essays written by poets about their own work, listen to interviews, and discuss poets' drafts of poems in order to examine how truthful autobiography finds its way into poems. This course will develop a student's deeper understanding of the process through which personal experience becomes art, how poets go about getting at the larger truth with the smaller lies.

This course will emphasize reading and discussion with an additional focus on the development of critical thinking skills related to the subject matter. Written requirements include brief critical responses in the form of weekly discussions and a final project on a topic related to material discussed in class. No prior poetry writing experience necessary.

Required Text:

After Confession: poetry as autobiography, edited by Kate Sontag and David Graham; ISBN-10: 1555973558; ISBN-13: 978-1555973551

MLA Handbook 8th edition by The Modern Language Association of America; ISBN-10: 1603292624; ISBN-13: 978-1603292627

Online Readings: Please see our course website for online readings. The Blackboard course will be made available no later than the first day of class in Spring 2018.

Updated: May 12, 2017