Fall 2023 - ENGL 115W D100

Literature and Culture (3)

Class Number: 3870

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Mon, Wed, 9:30–10:20 a.m.

    Oct 10, 2023: Tue, 9:30–10:20 a.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 14, 2023
    Thu, 8:30–11:30 a.m.



An Introduction to the study of literature within the wider cultural field, with a focus on contemporary issues across genres and media. Students with credit for ENGL 105W may not take this course for further credit. Writing/Breadth-Humanities.


Why Poetry (Still) Matters

Why does poetry matter in 2023?

Why did poetry matter in 1389? In 1609? In 1794? In 1965? In 2018?

This is not an idle question. Whether you think you love it or hate it, poetry was and remains, both as medium and as method, intensely personal and intensely political. Poetry can be inwardly seeking and outwardly engaged, even at the same moment. At times, as in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, it sprawls across thousands of lines, offering us long narratives that blend social critique, satire, observation, invective, and humour. At other times, as in Blake’s “Infant Sorrow” or Plath’s “You’re,” it is stunningly compact, challenging us to unpack the layers of meaning that exist beneath a precious few well-chosen words. Rather than using an unwieldy anthology, this course will focus on individual poetic statements from five very different poets in order to investigate how poetry works, how it means, and why—even in the hyperconnected multimedia world of the 21st century—it still matters. In considering these issues, we will, of course, attend to the intricacies of language and form (talking about a sonnet without talking about rhyme, meter, metaphor, and structure would be a tricky thing) as well as the particulars of each poem’s time and place. Most important, we will consider the specific linguistic choices made by each of these five writers to reach their distinct poetic ends.


  1. Understand the complex role of poetry in making both the world and our perceptions of it.
  2. Attain knowledge of some of the histories, forms, principles, and contexts of poetic expression.
  3. Develop skills in reading, understanding, analyzing, and interpreting poetic texts.
  4. Develop skills in written argumentation and analysis.


  • Paper 1 Draft (1000 Words) 10%
  • Paper 1 Revision (1000 Words) 15%
  • Paper 2 (1500 Words) 30%
  • Final Exam 30%
  • Tutorial Participation 15%



Please note that these books are all on order through the SFU Bookstore. You are responsible for obtaining all books for the class. Moreover, since the final exam will be open book, I strongly urge you to purchase the paper editions of the books.

Finally, please purchase the exact edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales that I've ordered here. There are many editions and translations of the Tales, and you are more likely to get lost if you can't follow along with this one.


Blake, William. Songs of Innocence and of Experience. 4th ed. Ed. Geoffrey Keynes. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1977.
ISBN: 978-0192810892

Plath, Sylvia. Ariel: The Restored Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 2005.
ISBN: 0060732601

Shakespeare, William. The Sonnets. Ed. Stephen Orgel and John Hollander. New York: Penguin, 2017.
ISBN: 978-0143131717

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Ed. and Trans. David Wright and Christopher Cannon. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. NOTE: PLEASE PURCHASE THIS EDITION OF THE CANTERBURY TALES.
ISBN: 9780199599028

Smith, Tracy K. Wade in the Water: Poems. New York: Graywolf Press, 2018.
ISBN: 9781555978136


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.