Although lyric poetry is the art of language that we reserve for the expression of the emotional dimension of our human experience, lyric poets also importantly use the forms and conventions of their art to respond to the shape and substance of the world they inhabit; that is, the historical, political, and physical aspects of the world—the “actual world”—in which they live. This course has two principal aims: first, to help us to develop skills in the reading of lyric poetry, and, second, to consider the complex relation between lyric poetry and the actual world. In the first half of the class, we will study the forms and conventions of lyric poetry and work on developing our poetic sensibilities. In the second half, we will focus our attention on the relationship of modern poets to the concrete or actual world and focus our study on W.H. Auden and Wallace Stevens, two poets who address the pressing questions of their day, and the world they shared, in strikingly different ways. Yet, however different their approaches, both poets ponder questions of faith and secularity, consider heroism and loss in a century marked by war, and probe our human relationship to nature in answer to an increasingly industrialized and technological world. Readings will include texts that consider how to read lyric poetry (Hirsch, Vendler, Perloff), a representative selection of modern lyric poetry (Eliot, Pound, Valéry, Éluard, Apollinaire, Moore, H.D., Bishop, Hughes, Brooks, Rich), the works of Auden and Stevens (essays and poems), as well as the philosophical, historical and political narratives to which they refer and that inform their work (Freud, Nietzsche, William James, Santayana).