BA English Literature and American Studies

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Anthologizing Modern and Contemporary Poetry

Course unit fact file
Unit code ENGL34192
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit will look at how poetry generations can be understood through debates and positions on poetics formulated in journals and anthologies, and what they reveal about their poetic and social moments, and the ways in which arguments about poetry respond to and shape a century’s debates about the representation of war, gender, race and political change as well as reflecting contemporary debates about artistic function and form.

We will consider:

- What’s the point of a poetry anthology/journal?

- How does any given anthology/journal represent modern and contemporary poetry?

- What values inform the choice of poets and poems?

- How is the anthology organized?

- Are an anthology or journal’s politics more important than the poems?

- Does intended audience determine the content?

- Are anthologies marketed differently to individual collections?

- How important is an editorial?

- Do anthologies/journals last?

The course will study important British anthologies of the past century. Students will give fifteen-minute presentations on each anthology under study.

Classes will consider the work of poets included, enabling us to read and respond to significant modern and contemporary poetry.


   •    Introduce students to a range of significant modern and contemporary poets, journals and poetry anthologies.

   •    Develop critical skills in thinking and writing about poetry.

   •    Develop students’ ability to hone their own writing skills in a critical and scholarly context.

   •    Develop students’ ability to offer useful feedback to other writers.

   •    Encourage students to read and learn from selected examples of modern and contemporary poetry.




Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a working knowledge and understanding of the recent history of poetry journals and anthologisation in the UK.
  • Show knowledge and understanding of selected examples of contemporary writing, both creative and critical.
  • Show knowledge and understanding of the anthology as a genre in its own right, with its own values, ethics and standards.

Intellectual skills

  • Conceive of and assemble a poetry anthology that makes a meaningful intervention into the field.
  • Write a scholarly essay that demonstrates understanding of both primary literary texts and secondary scholarly treatments of these texts.

Practical skills

  • Read, assimilate and organise a range of contemporary writing and scholarly responses to it.
  • Write a serviceable and publishable introduction for an anthology.
  • Essay composition, research and bibliography compilation.
  • Design/brand an anthology for maximum impact on publication.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

•    Produce writing that is stylish, informed and intellectually robust.

•    Formulate a critical response to a variety of genres and forms.

•    Improve creative writing using knowledge acquired.


Employability skills

¿ Write to engage a wide readership. ¿ Make verbal presentations of ideas to an audience. ¿ See a project through from conception to completion.

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Weighting within unit (if summative)

Essay 1


Essay 2 (which may take the form of an introduction to an anthology and its contents)



Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative and Summative

Numerical grade and written comments on essay within 15 working days. Feedback includes commentary on performance as well as suggestions for improvement.

Formative and Summative

Oral feedback given on students’ ideas in one-on-one meetings prior to essay submission


Oral feedback given in class during discussions.



Recommended reading

Jennifer Ashton, ‘Our Bodies, Our Poems’, in Modern Philology Vol. 105, No. 1 (August 2007)

Jane Dowson, ‘Anthologies of Women’s Poetry: Canon-Breakers; Canon-Makers’, in British Poetry from the 1950s to the 1990s, eds. Day and Docherty (Palgrave Macmillan, 1997)

Rachel Hadas, ‘On Poetry Anthologies’, in New England Review Vol. 19, No. 4 (Fall, 1998)

Korte, Schneider, and Lethbridge (eds.), Anthologies of British Poetry: Critical Perspectives from Literary and Cultural Studies (Rodopi, 2000)

Peter Middleton, ’Imagined Readerships and Poetic Innovation in UK Poetry’, in Assembling Alternatives: Reading Postmodern Poetries Transnationally, ed. Romana Huk (Wesleyan, 2003)

Andrew Michael Roberts, ‘The Rhetoric of Value in Recent British Poetry Anthologies’, in Poetry and Contemporary Culture, ed. A. M. Allison and Jonathan Roberts (Edinburgh University Press, 2002)

Robert Sheppard, ‘Review: Elsewhere and Everywhere: Other New (British) Poetries’, in Critical Survey, Vol. 10, No. 1, Contemporary British Male Poets (1998), pp. 17-32

Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young, ‘Numbers Trouble’, in Chicago Review, Vol. 53, No. 2/3 (Autumn 2007)

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 200

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michael Schmidt Unit coordinator
John McAuliffe Unit coordinator

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