Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Love and Death

ENGLISH 31N

How do we express life’s most powerful and often overwhelming emotions, like love and grief? How have writers, across centuries and many different literary traditions, sung the praises of a beloved, or lamented the ache of loss? What formal traditions--from repetition and refrain to the love sonnet and the elegy--have helped writers shape all that emotion into something enduring, and larger than the merely personal?

In this hybrid literature and creative writing course, we will range across time and space in search of poems and stories that capture the ineffable experiences of love and loss, and seek inspiration in writers old and new, from Shakespeare to James Baldwin, Lucille Clifton to Agha Shahid Ali. The main work of the course will be reading poems and stories, as well as generating original poetry and prose written under the influence of our literary heroes.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Patrick Phillips

"I was interested in everything in college, and in my career as a writer I’ve often resisted the pressure to choose just one specialization. I originally got an MFA in poetry, then a PhD in English literature, and was also a Fulbright scholar at the University of Copenhagen.

"In the years since, I’ve published three books of poetry, most recently Elegy for a Broken Machine, which has a lot of poems about the subjects of this class: love and death. I’ve also written a nonfiction book called Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America, which delves into a hidden history of racial violence in my hometown. (There is more info about my work at patrickphillipsbooks.com).

"This IntroSem is my favorite kind of course, since we’ll be free to range around and take inspiration—as writers and readers—wherever we find it. My hope is that together we’ll read some truly amazing texts, and use them to feed the creative fires of your own work as a writer."