Syllabus | Assignments

Long neglected, women’s poetry has finally gained recognition in recent decades, and the works of dozens – even hundreds – of excellent writers are now available.  Prompted by this (literal) renaissance, we will read a wide range of poems by women chosen for the styles, forms and general eloquence of their work.

More precisely, we will devote the first third of the course to poetry before 1900, the second to English and American poetry of the twentieth century, and the last to twentieth/twenty-first century poetry from other countries.  I will ask students to help organize and lead class discussions, and to prepare individual projects to present to the class toward the end of the semester.

Reading assignments will include works by Sappho, anonymous medieval lyricists, Mary Wroth, Anne Killigrew, Anne Bradstreet, Charlotte Smith, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Dickinson, Augusta Webster, Charlotte Mew, Muriel Rukeyser, Denise Levertov, Gwendolyn Brooks, Leslie Marmon Silko, Joy Harjo, Liz Lochhead and Marina Tsetayeva, among others. 

Grades will be based on class participation, web commentaries, and individual projects.



January 22nd, 2008 Tuesday

introduction, course information; Sappho

January 29th, 2008


February 5th, 2008

2 medieval poems in book, "The Wife's Lament" and "Wulf and Eadwacer"

February 12th, 2008

Renaissance, student choice (Lanier, Philips, Killigrew)

February 19th, 2008

Anne Bradstreet

February 26th, 2008

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "The Cry of the Children"

March 4th, 2008

student choice

March 11th, 2008

Christina Rossetti, "Goblin Market"

March 18th, 2008

spring break

March 25th

student choice

April 1st, 2008

Emily Dickinson

April 8th, 2008

student choice (international)

April 15th, 2008

Rosamund Marriott Watson

April 22nd, 2008

student choice (African-American poet, poss. Harper, Grimke, Jordan, Brooks, Dove)

title for paper due, bibliography

April 29th, 2008

student choice (Native, Hispanic, Asian-American)

May 6th, 2008

reports on your final papers

May 16th, 2008 Friday

final essay due


T 4-4:50 Library 2058

Instructor: Florence Boos

Office: 319 EPB, office phone 335-0434 (answering machine)

Office hours: most afternoons after class; Tuesday 5-6 p. m.; Friday 3-4 p. m.


Barnstone, Aliki and Barnstone, Willis. Women's Poetry from Antiquity to the Present. Schocken, 1980. 40+ copies available from Amazon, many under $10.

Handouts will be provided on Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti and Rosamund Marriott Watson.

Course Requirements:

1. contributions to class discussion: please read the assignment before class and come prepared to ask questions and comments on unusual features of the text.

From time to time, I will ask students to give a brief class presentation on an author's life, and/or to prepare responses and questions for our readings.

2. journal/reading responses: please prepare 7 reading responses, the equivalent of two double-spaced typed pages each, to be posted on Icon so that your fellow students may read them. Four of your responses should be on course readings, and three on literary criticism about Victorian women poets. For this latter, I will give you a short bibliography of suggested readings.

3. In addition to posting these responses to the class web site, you will be asked to write a four page final take-home examination.

The final essay/take-home exam will be a comparative critical discussion of the works of two or more poets you have read during the course.

The final session for presenting your papers will be held during examination week, most likely on Tuesday May 13th, 2008 unless students vote for another day later that week.

You will be asked to provide for the class a brief biography of a poet of your choice, and to lead an approx. 20 minute class discussion of one of her poems.