English 45 - Spring, 2023

Introductory Topics in Poetry

Topic: Unruly Natures, Rambunctious Women: Poetics of Chaos in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Class Information

Instructor: Giardina, Elizabeth
CRN: 62106
Time: MWF 2:10-3:00pm
Location: 233 Wellman
GE Areas: Writing Experience


As the consequences of anthropogenic climate change become increasingly frequent and violent; as seen with the 2018 Camp Fire, the 2020 Midwest derecho storm, and the 2023 California atmospheric river;?we are increasingly confronted with a natural world that is both unpredictable and uncontrollable. This introductory course traces how poetry negotiates the relationships among femininity, nature, and chaos as well as how these negotiations might influence or illuminate twenty-first-century responses to climate change, including geoengineering, legislation, and political protest. We will return to the origins of Western empirical science through poems that reflect the many ways in which Nature has long refused to be controlled, manipulated, understood, or predicted. Eighteenth-century natural philosophers influentially sought to yoke an unruly, feminized nature under masculinized, predictable orders. Poets including Margaret Cavendish, Anne Finch, James Thomson, Edward Young, Phillis Wheatley Peters, Charlotte Smith, and Christina Rossetti adopt and revise this intellectual history to differing ends, with depictions ranging from a chaotic Nature tamed by divine, righteous Laws to storm-tossed winds mercifully saving a woman's life from their own destruction. This course will stretch "poetic form" to include material environments and visual media that are characterized by process and evolution as much as structure or utility. This multimedia, process-focused course will demonstrate how poetry already exists within our lives, how poetics is already shaping the world around us, and how we are already participating in these aesthetic histories, perhaps without even knowing.

All texts will be freely and digitally available.


Annihilation (2018) (film), Alex Garland
Upon the Hurricane (1703) (poem), Anne Finch
To a Lady on Her Remarkable Preservation (1773) (poem), Phillis Wheatley Peters
Goblin Market (1862) (poem), Christina Rossetti
Night-Thoughts (1797) (poem & watercolor), Edward Young & William Blake
The Slave Ship (1840) (painting), JMW Turner
Almanack and Ephemeris (1793) (excerpts), Benjamin Banneker
Beachy Head (1807) (poem), Charlotte Smith
Proserpine (1874) (painting), Dante Gabriel Rossetti