Pop Songs and Poetry: Theory and Analysis
Full course description
In the course Poetry and Pop Songs, we will be reading English and American poetry from the 20th and 21th century. We will also unravel the work from a variety of older and newer music artists, ranging for example from U2 and Coldplay to Rihanna and P!nk. Moreover, you are encouraged to look for additional examples of poems and songs to discuss and analyze in class.
In this course, you will learn how to interpret poetry and popular music in a systematic and sophisticated way, and to write an in-depth analysis of a song or poem. The focus rests with the analysis of the lyrics or ‘text’ of the poems and songs. First, you will learn how to make use of insights and tools from literary theory in order to find out how (specific) poems work, which effects they evoke, and what they mean. You will also learn how to apply these tools to the analysis of song texts.
In this course, we use a broad definition of pop songs, focusing on contemporary popular music, which means including other genres than just conventional pop music, such as rap, hip-hop, and rock. We will also pay some (albeit limited) attention to musical aspects - such as rhythm - of the songs at hand, to see how they interact with the lyrics. Once you have become familiar with the analysis of the lyrics, we will expand our focus to include an analysis of performance (including music videos) in the last week of the course.
In this course, you will also experience the creative process that underlies all poetry and song, in a variety of ways:
- you will learn to recite or sing a poem or song;
- you will hear from experienced artists how they approach writing a poem or song;
- you will write a poem or a song of your own.
Throughout the course, we will pay close attention to issues of gender and diversity. We will address the question of how gender, ethnicity and sexuality can be integrated into an analysis of the lyric.
- You have a basic understanding of the literary theory of poetry analysis.
- You are able to apply this theory to both poems as song texts.
- You are able to analyze songs and poems in a sophisticated way, and to discuss lyrical texts and songs systematically.
- You are able to integrate gender and other axes of difference into the study of poems and popular songs.
- You are able to express your analysis of poems and songs in academic writing.
- You are familiar with a number of classic Anglo-American poems.
- You know at least one poem or song by heart, and know how to recite/sing it.
- You have written a poem or song, thereby experiencing the creative process that is involved firsthand.
- Primary sources (poems and songs)
- Vendler, H. (2009). Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology. (3nd ed.). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.