Human Nature Through Poets’ Eyes


What is the course about?

Poetry is often understood as one of the most direct and authentic modes of expression for individual experience, as a way of communicating private joys and sorrows. While the impulse behind poetic composition is usually individual, though, the completed work can also be examined in terms of social roles and relationships. Even after they are composed poems continue to circulate throughout society, being quoted and adapted for other purposes. So this course will first introduce specific poems using the tools of literary criticism, but then ask about the limitations of those tools. To what extent are the individual experiences communicated in poems determined by social roles, cultural tradition, or even human biology?

The course is organized around several topics both fundamental to human experience and also popular subjects for poetry. These are love poetry; mystical poetry; war poetry; and dramatic poetry (which integrates various poetic forms and themes). There is a creative interlude halfway through for students to experiment with composing their own poems.

The main poetic texts will be selected from literary traditions around the world, and presented in English translation. There will be an emphasis on the rich tradition of Chinese poetry, which can be read in either the original or translation, or both, depending on student interest.

Course Code Offering Dept(s)/Unit(s) Area of Learning Units & Hours
GDAR1947 HIST ARTS (3,2,1)
Download the course syllabus


IGEThis is an interdisciplinary GE (IGE) course.

  1. One IGE course is listed for more than 1 area of learning. You can decide which area of learning you would like the course to fulfill, by enrolling in the course with the corresponding course code.

Notes for all GE courses

  • You can take a maximum of 6 additional units of GE courses from any categories as electives.