MSL Evening School Sem2 2023

Two 10-hour courses running August-September

The Melbourne School of Literature is proud to present the MSL Evening School Sem2 2023 curriculum. All courses are 10 hours in length. All courses will be taught via Zoom. As always significant discounts apply for those enrolling in multiple courses. If you have any questions which aren't in our FAQs please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

When: 22 August - 28 September

Where: ONLINE. All courses will be taught via Zoom.  Video recordings will also be available within a few days after each seminar for those who can't make the schedule.  Readings are made available online before the school begins.  Links to the Zoom classroom are sent out with the registration email. All payment must be made via credit card during enrolment.  Also it's worth noting that Melbourne (AEST) is 10 hours ahead of UTC (5pm here is 7am in Berlin and 10pm in LA).

Fees (AUD):

Courses Waged Unwaged
1 $145 $90
2 $220 $150


Evening School Programme

2 hours per week for 5 weeks

Tue 7:30-9:30pm
Starts 22 Aug
Metaphysical Poetry
Lecturer: Emmalea Russo
Thu 6:00-8:00pm
Starts 24 Aug
Marxist Adventures in Poetry
Lecturer: Elena Gomez


Course Descriptions

Metaphysical Poetry

Lecturer: Emmalea Russo

Starts: Tue 7:30-9:30pm 22 Aug

Full Schedule: Aug 22, 29, Sep 5, 12, 19

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

“He affects the metaphysics, not only in his satires, but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign; and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts, and entertain them with the softnesses of love..” That’s John Dryden, writing about the poetry of John Donne in 1693. How might poetry “affect the metaphysics?” How does poetry deal with the relationship between the soul and the body, mind and matter? The so-called natural and unnatural? Known for their wit, playful use of irony, complex conceits, wordplay, philosophizing, and operatic imagery, the so-called Metaphysical Poets were writing in England during the 17th century. Though the term “metaphysical poetry” was coined in retrospect (as an insult) by the critic Samuel Johnson referring to the above passage by Dryden, metaphysical poetry is not necessarily confined to a specific place or time. In this course, we’ll read poems by the influential 17th century metaphysical poets John Donne, Andrew Marvell, George Herbert, and Henry Vaughan alongside writings offering historical and cultural context for their work and ways. We’ll also discuss how the metaphysical resounds in modern and contemporary poetry.

Week 1: “This Flea is you and I”: What is the Metaphysical?

In this first class, we’ll think about the term metaphysical, discussing some philosophical and artistic influences and historical context of the 17th century Metaphysical poets. We’ll read and discuss two of John Donne’s poems that are commonly referenced as trademark metaphysical poems: “The Flea” and “The Sun Rising.”


Week 2: “Twice or thrice had I lov’d thee:” John Donne

Lecture on the life and work of John Donne. (1572-1631). We’ll read and discuss a selection of John Donne’s love poetry, holy sonnets, and prose.


  • Introduction to John Donne: The Major Works
  • Excerpts on John Donne and Metaphysical Poetry from Seventeenth Century English Poetry
  • “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” by John Donne
  • “The Ecstasy” by John Donne
  • “Love’s Diet” by John Donne
  • “Holy Sonnets” by John Donne
  • Selections from Donne’s sermons and prose          

Week 3: “Deserts of vast eternity”: Andrew Marvell

Lecture on the life and work of Andrew Marvell (1621-1678).


  • “A Dialogue between The Resolved Soul, and Created Pleasure”
  • “A Dialogue between the Soul and Body”
  • "To His Coy Mistress”
  • “The Definition of Love”
  • “Andrew Marvell” by T.S. Eliot

Week 4: “Each part of my hard heart”: George Herbert and Henry Vaughan

Lecture on the life and work of George Herbert (1593-1633) and Henry Vaughan (1621-1695).


  • “The Altar” by George Herbert
  • “The Agonie” by George Herbert
  • “Redemption”
  • “Death”
  • “Love”
  • “Retreat” by Henry Vaughan
  • “The Star” by Henry Vaughan
  • “Regeneration” by Henry Vaughan
  • “Reading Forms: George Herbert” in Southwest Review
  • Selections from Helen Vendler’s The Poetry of George Herbert

Week 5: Angels, Bodies, Souls, and Technology: The Metaphysical in Modern and Contemporary Poetry

How do we conceive of the metaphysical today? We’ll think about ways in which some Metaphysical techniques and subjects might resound in modern and contemporary poetry.


  • T.S. Eliot: “Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry”
  • William Van O’Connor “The Influence of the Metaphysicals on Modern Poetry”
  • Roger Gilbert: “Awash with Angels: The Religious Turn in Nineties Poetry”
  • Poems by T.S. Eliot, H.D. Olena Kalytiak Davis, Carolyn Forche, Cynthia Cruz, and Louise Gluck.

Marxist Adventures in Poetry

Lecturer: Elena Gomez

Starts: Thu 6:00-8:00pm 24 Aug

Full Schedule: Aug 24, 31, Sep 7, 14, (Break), 28

Location: Taught via Zoom online.

Poetry is a form that responds to the conditions of the world it is made from, but the specifics of these conditions can only become clear through a Marxist analysis. Marxist responses to poetry have been historically uneven and shaped by their own historical conditions and contradictions. This course is interested in Marxism as a framework for reading and thinking about poetry. It considers historic developments of Marxist theory alongside poetic inquiry and the relationship between poetry and social movements. Not programmatic, nor didactic, this course seeks to articulate Marxism as a mode of thinking alongside poetry as a mode of thinking. Topics will include genealogies of Marxist feminist poetry, totality and metabolism in Marxist ecopoetics and poetry and finance. The course will comprise weekly one-hour lectures followed by one-hour collective close readings and analysis, with an emphasis on process – the process of reading, the process of collective meaning-making, the process of capitalism-in-motion. Students are invited to share poetry they encounter or enjoy in relation to these themes to discuss as a class. We will set aside extra time in the final week to share poetry that illuminates some of the themes and ideas from the course.

Week 1: What Are We Even Doing Here?

We begin with questions about methodology. What are the methods and principles of a Marxist poetics and what is the relationship of labour, value, production and circulation to poetry? Why are we interested in Marxist analysis today?


  • ‘The Other Minimal Demand’ by Joshua Clover and Chris Nealon in Communism and Poetry (2019)
  • ‘Introduction’ from The Politics of Style by Dan Hartley
  • Work by Brandon Brown (excerpt)

Week 2: Marxist Feminist poetics

Marxist feminism emerged in 1970s Italy and the US in response to worker-led movements, and developed analyses of value and in relation to gendered and unwaged reproductive labour. This week focuses on the articulations of these concepts in poetry by Diane di Prima and Bernadette Mayer and the hidden political implications of ‘love’ and ‘care’.


  • ‘Midwinter Day’ by Bernadette Mayer
  • Revolutionary Letters by Diane di Prima (excerpts)
  • ‘Hidden Abodes and Inner Bonds: Literary Study and Marxist-Feminism’, Amy De'Ath
  • Salvage interview with Kay Gabriel

Week 3: Marxist Ecopoetics

As we face imminent and current climate crises, the question of how to respond has become an urgent one: with ecofascists proposing population control, green capitalism offering market-based solutions, a Left solution that addresses the role of capitalism and the uneven, exploitative relations of global economics must be articulated. In the growing field of ecocriticism, responses often seek to solve a problem or appeal to the ‘function’ of art in social solution. Both Marxist analysis and poetry offer the complexity and possibility of social connection that a collective and comprehensive response to climate crises must entail.


  • ‘The Morality of Improvement’ in The Country and the City by Raymond Williams
  • lood Snow by dg nanouk okpik (excerpt)
  • Dynamic Positioning’ by Juliana Spahr

Week 4: Poetry & Revolution

This week we will explore the role of poetry in revolutionary moments from history. We will think about the limits and possibilities in poetry and the relationship between its place in the literary economy and its attendance to movements that emerge outside mainstream politics.


Week 5:  Caribbean Poetics and Tensions in Marxist Poetics

This final week will touch on some of the complications of a Marxist approach: its limits and relations to other disciplines. In particular, we explore the poetics of the Caribbean as a site of ecological and anticolonial thinking and Marxism via Aime Cesaire. We will also have a chance during this final session for open discussion about the preceding weeks, and for students to share poetry that excites or challenges them in some way.


  • ‘Prologue’, Decolonial Ecology: Thinking from the Caribbean World by Malcom Ferdinand
  • ‘Notebook from a Return to my Native Land’ by Aime Cesaire (excerpt)


12 Jun - 21 Jul MSCP Winter School

22 Aug - 28 Sept MSL Evening School


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