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Poetry and Popular Music

Program(s): Immersion

*Taught Online for Summer 2021*  What are the boundaries of poetry and music, and what role do they (or can they) play in our lives? Although the origins of lyric poetry are in music and performance, much of that connection has been lost. As a result, many of our critical discussions of poetry remain divorced from its connection to voice, presence, and performance, and many of our discussions of lyrics in hip-hop, rock, and other popular music have neglected a discussion of their connection to literary language. In this course, through discussions, listening sessions, writing assignments, and creative projects, students will question what exactly is a lyric, what are the points of crossing when we read lyrics and poems alongside each other, and what effects performance, genre, and medium have on our reception of them. We’ll begin with a discussion of some notable poems by Sappho and William Blake whose accompanying music has been lost, and some pieces of music which feature vocal sounds without language per se. From there, we will explore a variety of poems and lyrics drawn from different musical genres such as blues, folk, punk, and hip-hop, not reading songs as poems, or poems as songs, but both as fragments of an ongoing literary and social conversation. During the three-week course, students will complete a number of short writing assignments, and they will have the option of writing a capstone research essay or doing a creative spoken-word or remix project.

Daily Course Expectations

  • 6 hours of daily work
  • Mix of synchronous and asynchronous work (see definitions here)
  • 1 required synchronous session per day: 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. CST

Course Considerations

This course is designed to give students a taste of what all UChicago first-year students experience in the Humanities Core, a foundational part of every student’s education in the College, where students enter into conversation with great thinkers of the past and present about questions and issues that have preoccupied mankind for millennia. The Humanities Core teaches students to read closely, think critically, and communicate effectively. In small discussion-based seminars, students learn and practice the art of oral argument and dialogue. Through short assignments and longer papers, as well as group sessions that replicate writing seminars taken by University of Chicago undergraduates, students will work on constructing cogent arguments and refine their expository writing skills. In short, they will come away with an insider’s view of what makes a UChicago education unique, and with training that will stand them in good stead wherever they undertake their undergraduate studies.

Reading Intensive
Discussion Intensive

Course Overview

Current Grade / Education Level

9th Grade
10th Grade
11th Grade



Start Date

June 21

End Date

July 08

Class Details

Primary Instructor

Andrew Broughton

Academic Interest

Humanities (e.g., arts, philosophy)
Examining Culture and Society
Writing and Literature

Class Specifics

Course Code

HUMA 10100 94

Class Day(s)

Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri


Session I

Course Length

3 weeks