Unsettling Poetry Pedagogy (Edited volume)

deadline for submissions: 
November 5, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Caroline Gelmi/UMass Dartmouth and Lizzy LeRud/Georgia Tech
contact email: 

This collection will provide college-level instructors with short, provocative, and practical essays on new, antiracist methods for teaching poetry. We’re keen to identify outmoded approaches that need to be unsettled, and we invite you to write against their inadequate, outdated, toxic, and downright racist effects. Ultimately, Unsettling Poetry Pedagogy seeks to put antiracist teaching and research directly in conversation with each other, offering productive, tangible ways for poetry classrooms to confront social injustice. 


Over the last two decades, groundbreaking scholarship in poetry studies has pressed us to uncover the political implications of both what we read and how we read it. Scholars have shown that many normative concepts and methods in poetry studies (like the lyric, meter, scansion, free verse, close reading, the speaker, etc.) are enmeshed within broader systems of white supremacy and imperialism. Yet, these concepts often go unchallenged in college classrooms, where they are frequently taught as transhistorical, transnational, and ideologically neutral. 


This collection asks: How should antiracist, anti-imperialist scholarship change the ways we teach poetry and poetics? What normative approaches should be revised, rethought, or replaced? How can new approaches to teaching poetry confront and challenge the entrenched racism and white supremacy of poetry studies--and language and literature studies more broadly? How might these approaches advance the work of educational justice? How might they help to reshape and productively complicate framing concepts in our disciplines?


We welcome discussions of curricula, syllabi, assignments, activities, learning theories, teaching tools, and assessment ecologies for teaching poetry at all levels of higher education and in all language and literature disciplines. We seek considerations of teaching different student populations at all kinds of institutions, as well as in-depth discussions of teaching from different identity positions and academic ranks. 


In the tradition of paradigm-shifting volumes like the science-oriented This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories that Are Blocking Progress and the writing-studies volume, Bad Ideas About Writing, we invite contributors to confront the myths and misunderstandings about poetry that hinder student learning--or, conversely, make a new case for an established approach. Topics might include:


  • Nationalized, racialized, and ethnic narratives of literary history

  • Periodization and the tyranny of century divisions

  • The blurry boundaries of genres, forms, modes (free/formal; lyric/not lyric; experiment/tradition) 

  • Craft, the creative writing classroom, poetry workshops, and today’s MFA

  • Teaching historical poetics

  • Analog versus digital tools

  • New media and multimedia/multimodal poetics

  • Methods for reading poems (close reading, distant reading, annotation methods like scansion)

  • The long, messy legacy of New Criticism (intentional fallacy, speaker, ambiguity, tension; connections to Southern-Agrarian reactionary politics)

  • Archival research and recovery work

  • Transnational, comparative, translational approaches

  • General education and curriculum (what is Poetry 101; must students read Shakespeare?)

  • Teacher training and graduate student programs


We seek 300-word proposals for essays that will be 1500-2000 words. Collaborative and clustered proposals are welcome (a provocation and its counter-argument, perhaps). Please email proposals to cgelmi@umassd.edu and elerud3@gatech.edu by Friday November 5, 2021. If your proposal is accepted, completed essays will be due by May 2022. Questions to the editors are welcome.