This course is discontinued

ENG4431 – Contemporary Poetry

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course aims to promote the enjoyment of contemporary poetry, to help students make informed literary responses to poetic texts, and to stimulate thesis research. It is not a survey course, but concentrates instead on a selection of work by some of the best loved poets writing in the English-speaking world today: Tony Harrison, James Fenton, Carol Ann Duffy, Kathleen Jamie, Anne Stevenson, Gillian Clarke, and Seamus Heaney. Though brief, this list suggests something (but only something) of the cultural and geographical diversity of English-speaking poetry, reflecting backgrounds in England, Scotland, Wales, the United States, and Northern Ireland. These poets reach large audiences, and their work is characterized by inclusivity of address and breadth of thematic concern. Yet while they do not pitch their work primarily to poetry mandarins or academics, their work invites and richly repays academic study. The course will also explore two popular anthologies of contemporary verse, Making for Planet Alice: New Women Poets (ed. Maura Dooley, Bloodaxe, 1997), and the recent, controversial bestseller Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times (ed. Neil Astley, Bloodaxe, 2002).

Learning outcome

The student will understand how individual poems work and how poets use the formal resources of verse. The second aim of the course is to allow contemporary poems to introduce new readers to older poems, and in this way to incite and nourish literary enthusiasms beyond the course’s scope. The student will also develop the ability to analyse texts within their social, political and cultural context.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

Admission to the master program in literature, LAP or other suitable master programs.


Seminar, two hours per week for ten weeks. The students must write a qualifying assignment; a five-page commentary consisting of headnote and explanatory annotation to either a single poem of more than twenty lines or two shorter poems. There is no set syllabus of individual poems to be studied: students are expected to read extensively in the work of the poets considered in this course. A selection of poems will, however, be specified at the beginning of term for class discussion on given dates, and students will be required to prepare these poems specifically for seminar discussion. In addition, each student will be expected to prepare a ten-minute oral presentation in the course of the term. Students will be expected to attend each seminar.


Once a qualifying assignment has been approved, the course will be assessed by a term paper, a ten-page critical essay.

All written papers must be accompanied by a declaration concerning cheating Obligatorisk erklæring vedr. fusk

Language of examination


Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Marks will be published on Studentweb no later than three weeks after the submission date/exam.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Autumn 2007


Autumn 2007

Teaching language