Edwardian verse and Imagism; poetry of the First World War; Modernism (T.S. Eliot); politics & poetry (W.B. Yeats); the 1930s (W.H. Auden); Surrealism and syntax (Dylan Thomas); the landscape of the 1950s (Philip Larkin); Pop and popular verse (Roger McGough et. al. and John Betjeman); poetry and the natural world (Ted Hughes); Northern Ireland - violence and verse (Seamus Heaney); Thatcher’s Britain (Tony Harrison); race, gender and class in the 1990s (e.g. Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Tom Leonard)




This introductory course has three main aims:

  1. to provide a survey of English poetry in the 20th-century and map some of the major figures;
  2. to equip students with a critical vocabulary with which to talk about poetic forms and devices used in (some 20th-century) poetry: forms such as the ballad, sonnet and villanelle; the uses of alliteration, assonance, consonance, diction, grammar, metaphor, metre, rhyme, rhythm, register, simile, syntax and tone of voice;
  3. to situate these poets and poems in their socio-political contexts.




Each week, students will be required to read up to a dozen poems by a major 20th-century English poet (from the indicative list above). These poems will be closely analyzed in class and situated in their socio-political contexts. The course will be chronological and so each week students will look at the work of one or two poets per decade of the 20th-century. Students are not expected to buy all of these texts as they are readily available in HKU and other HK libraries. For their presentations and for their portfolios (see below) students will be expected to read around the topics they have chosen/been assigned.




The course is assessed 100% by coursework. This comprises two components: 20% for attendance, group-work and tutorial participation; 80% for a portfolio of exercises arising out of the work done in class.




Recommended Readings

Auden, W.H. 2004. Collected Poems. London: Faber & Faber.

Eliot, T.S. 2002. Collected Poems:1909-1962. London: Faber & Faber.

Hughes, Ted 1995. New Selected Poems:1957-1994. London: Faber & Faber.

Heaney, Seamus. 2002. Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996. London: Faber & Faber.

Larkin, Philip. 2012. The Complete Poems. London: Faber & Faber.

Thomas, Dylan. 2003. Collected Poems: 1934-52. London: Everyman.

Yeats, W.B. 1987. Collected Poems. London: Macmillan.

Couzyn. J. (ed.) 1995. The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Women Poets. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe Books.

Forbes, P. 2000. Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of Twentieth Century Poetry. London: Penguin Books.

Silkin, J. (ed.) 1996. The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry. London: Penguin Books.
Detailed reading lists will be provided during the course.



Last updated: 21 June 2018