Leading a Class


Assign the readings for the class. Readings should be at most 20 pages, comprising any combination of poems, criticism/theory, historical or biographical information, or links to audio/video recordings. Provide me with the material (or post it on the WordPress site) by the Monday before your teaching date.



Now that we’ve read what you told us to read, you are in charge of the class for 20-25 minutes. How you use that time is up to you. Try to accomplish the following:

Introduce the poet, movement, or topic. Argue for his/her/its significance. Why should we care? How did he/she/it influence or respond to other poets on the syllabus, or the world at large?

Be judicious with biographical and historical details. A fact like “This poet never married” is useless to us. On the other hand, “This poet’s obsession with capturing women’s voices is unexpected, given that there were very few women in his life” might be helpful.

Guide us through at least one poem. Be sure to explain what makes the poem representative of your topic, whether in its form or subject matter. How does it compare to other works of its time, or to something we have already studied?

Lead a discussion or another interactive activity (e.g., a mini writing exercise). This is where your selection of readings can be very important. Some sources, for example, provide study questions which your peers can think about in advance.
For students not presenting today, this is a vital time to support your peers and earn participation marks.


Friday, after class:

Provide a bibliography for your presentation, using MLA style.


Possible topics:

  • Any influential poet we haven’t covered in detail
  • A distinctive style or movement
  • A historic debate, rivalry or scandal involving poems, poets, or poetic theory
  • Issues of translation: classic or contemporary authors translated into English; English poems translated into other languages; imported forms (e.g., haiku or ghazal); multilingual poetry
  • Poetry and technology: the typewriter? the Ouija board? the Internet?


Grading criteria:

  • Factual knowledge
  • Strength of interpretation: a compelling argument for your topic’s significance and aesthetic value
  • Clear delivery, smoothly paced, logically organized
  • Creativity, risk-taking
  • Research: skilled use of the resources at Emory and online; thoughtful selection of readings for the class




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