Corruption & the Sonnet

Corruption & the Sonnet

Break apart and re-build the sonnet to explore how this form can also house conflict, connivance, and corruption.

If eyes, corrupt by over-partial looks,
Be anchor’d in the bay where all men ride,
Why of eyes’ falsehood hast thou forged hooks,
Whereto the judgement of my heart is tied?

– Shakespeare, ‘Sonnet 137’

To corrupt: literally ‘to break entirely’, but also to putrefy, to taint, even to mistranslate. This course arises from the notion that the sonnet – for all its tired connotations of the courtly and the finely wrought – persists not because of resisting corruption but because of welcoming it. Since its origins, the form’s precise and pretty architecture has housed conflict and connivance. A corruptible form for a corruptible world.

Different thematic approaches to corruption – decay, depravity, destruction, dishonesty, distortion – will be integrated into five assignments in which we break the sonnet apart and put it back together, or let elements of it die off and see what grows back. Metre, rhyme, and stanza will be variously negotiated and rejected.

Points of reference include the rhetorical sleight-of-hand of Donne, Shakespeare, and Sidney; the thematic subversions of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Christina Rossetti; Gerard Manley Hopkins and George Meredith’s reworkings of the form’s proportions; the pressure tests performed by Ted Berrigan, John Berryman, Gwendolyn Brooks, E.E. Cummings, Bernadette Mayer, and Edwin Morgan; the bad taste of Paul Muldoon and Frederick Seidel; and destroyed American mash-up interpretations by Jericho Brown, Wanda Coleman, Nick Demske, and Terrance Hayes.

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.

To apply for a concession rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected] Conditions of eligibility are detailed here.

If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected]

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Image credit: White Field Photo

About Adam Crothers View Profile

Adam Crothers was born in Belfast in 1984, and works in a library in Cambridge. His poetry collections are Several Deer (Carcanet, 2016; winner of the Shine/Strong Poetry Award and the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize) and The Culture of My Stuff (Carcanet, 2020).

‘I found a whole new confidence in my poetry by being amongst a welcoming and committed group of writers. I took what I learned, ran with it and the poems it inspired were included in a portfolio I submitted to a university I will shortly be joining as a PhD student. It wasn’t the reason I joined the Poetry School, I joined because I love poetry, but it certainly gave me the confidence boost I needed to take that next step.’

– Autumn 2020 Survey Response

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