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The Music of Poetry and the Poetry of Music

Semester and Year FA 2017
Course Number IDSEM-UG1649
Section 001
Instructor Lisa Goldfarb
Days Tue Thu
Time 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM
Units 4
Level U



Although the ancient Greeks used the word “moûsike” to designate both poetry and music and the two were once “one” art, with alphabetic writing their paths diverged and poetry, music, rhetoric, and musical theory became distinct from one another. Yet, however much music and poetry may have their separate histories and technical languages, poets and composers have continued to probe the relation between the two arts. In this course, we will focus on the relationship between music and poetry in the modern era—from the “fin de siècle” and Verlaine’s call to the symbolist poets to compose “Music above everything,” to the modernists in English and American poetry and the jazz improvisations of the twentieth century. We will study musical and poetic history of the period, grapple with what we mean when we say a poem is musical and what melody means in poetry, and we will study how to define and discuss lyricism in music. Readings may include the work of modern poets (symbolists, imagists, modernists)—Mallarmé, Verlaine, Valéry, Pound, Auden, Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Stevens —and modern composers Debussy, Stravinsky, Copland, Ives, Thomson and the rhythms of blues and jazz. To develop a critical vocabulary, readings may also include texts on the history and theory of both arts (Winn, Kramer, Hollander, Adorno).


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)