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Understanding Poetry (10 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

This course is an introduction to the theory of poetry. It provides an overview of the key features of poetry, aiming to give students a theoretical and critical toolkit necessary in the analysis of poems. The course uses selected examples and seeks to provide a combination of theoretical principles and close reading.

Course Details

Content of Course

1. Introduction. What is poetry? Poets on poetry; poems about poetry; some characteristics of the genre.

2. Line (1): Metre and Rhyme

3. Line (2): Free Verse and Syllabics

4. Metaphor

5. Poetry and the Visual Arts

6. Poetry and the News

7. Poetry and Prayer

8. Poetic Address: the ‘you’ of poems

9. Poetry and community

10. Conclusions and directions

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Master the theoretical vocabulary necessary to the understanding of poetry.

  • Acquire close reading skills.

  • Gauge the relationship between poetics and a poet’s textual practice.

  • Gain an insight into personal taste and criteria of evaluating poetic texts.


Core Readings


Class handouts with texts for close reading will be made available on a week to week basis.


  • Vendler, Helen. Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology.
  • Fry, Stephen. The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within.
  • Longenbach, James. The Resistance to Poetry.

Web Sources

Class Handouts

Class handouts with texts for close reading will be made available on a week to week basis.


10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.