Desire and Death: the Modern Sonnet

English, School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies

College of Arts and Law


Code 22335

Level of study Third/Final year

Credit value 20

Semester 2

Module description

This course will explore the sonnet in its modern form, in a post-romantic context. Drawing on a selection of poets from the nineteenth century to the present day. The issues to be explored include:

  • What is the sonnet and what is its heritage?

  • Questions concerning the nature and function of modern poetry: why is a traditional form like the sonnet still important?

  • How should we read the modern sonnet?

  • How should we think of the `I¿ persona in the sonnet; in what sense is the poem a vehicle for the exploration of the self?

  • What relationship does poetry have with political discourses? Can we expect poetry to act as a public discourse, furthering such aims as feminism or national identity?

  • Why have desire and death been the abiding themes of the sonnet, and what happens to these tropes in modern poetry?