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Poetry and Poetics (Cluster)

The Poetry and Poetics Graduate Cluster is an interdisciplinary group of scholars and writers who share an interest in the long and varied tradition named by “poetics” and in the particular structures of thought that poetry articulates across languages and over time. Our highly engaged membership includes students and faculty from across the language-focused humanities fields, as well as scholars working in ethnic, area, and performance studies.

The fields of poetry and poetics, as tandem disciplines in the literary arts and literary studies, are undergoing a sustained period of renewal that bridges the languages and traditions on which the national literature departments are modeled. Northwestern has seen a rapid, organic expansion of a poetics community, and we are currently rich in creative projects and scholarly questions centered on cross-national, multi-disciplinary, and transhistorical approaches to poetry.

Cluster faculty and students work together to generate theoretically innovative accounts of the poetries of the near and distant past, as well as of marginalized communities in the U.S. and abroad.

Programs and events

We sponsor poetry readings, lectures, and a series of workshops featuring a distinguished group of contemporary poets and scholars from around the world; a poetry-in-the-schools initiative in collaboration with Youth and Opportunity United (Y.O.U.); joint events with the Poetry Foundation, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum, Giordano Dance Company, and other cultural institutions around Chicago; and a first book poetry chapbook prize for emerging poets of color, published by Northwestern University Press.

Many events, such as our speaker series and workshops, are open to all members of the community. Graduate-level cluster seminars are open to graduate students across the University. We encourage all students, faculty, and staff of Northwestern to learn more about our research and activities by participating in our public events.

Who should apply?

Doctoral candidates from any field are eligible to apply to join this intellectual “home” outside their department. Past participants have come from the following programs:

  • African-American Studies
  • Art History
  • Comparative Literary Studies
  • English
  • French and Italian
  • German Literature and Critical Thought
  • Music
  • Performance Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Spanish and Portuguese
  • Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • Theatre and Drama

How to apply

Prospective PhD students interested in participating in this cluster should indicate their interest when they apply to their respective graduate programs.

Current graduate students interested in participating in this cluster should contact Professor Susannah Gottlieb at

Who to contact

Please contact the program directors, listed below, with questions about this program. Or, explore the Poetry and Poetics website for more information.

The following requirements are in addition to, or further elaborate upon, those requirements outlined in The Graduate School Policy Guide.

Poetry and Poetics Cluster seminars are open to all interested PhD students. Cluster fellowship students are required to take three classes from a menu of offerings (this list will be refined annually depending upon staffing) in the following three areas of study:

  • Poetry: Students in these classes explore a specific topic, author, or poetic tradition and focus on primary literary texts. 
  • Literary Theory/Poetics: Students in these classes explore key theoretical aspects of poetry and contemporary textual analysis:  cultural critique and context-centered methodologies combined with literary analysis and theory.
  • Translation: Students in these classes explore the theoretical and practical concerns of translation:  the challenges and innovations of cross-cultural literary exchange.

The list of applicable courses will vary from year to year and will often include classes taught under the auspices of African-American Studies, Art History, Asian Studies, Comparative Literary Studies, English, French and Italian, German Literature and Critical Thought, Music, Philosophy, Spanish and Portuguese, Slavic Languages and Literatures, Theater, and Performance Studies. The choice of courses must be approved by the Director of the Poetry and Poetics Cluster.

The following is a sampling of relevant courses:

  • Medieval Studies: After the “Alliterative Revival”
  • Brazilian avant-gardes: 1922-1967
  • Comparative Modernism
  • Fade to Black: Black Cultural Production and the Poetics of Dissolution
  • German Romanticism and its European Reception
  • Grammars of Pre-Modernity
  • Logic of Poetry
  • Mandelstam and Modernism
  • Modern American poetry
  • Modernism in Brazil
  • Modernist Poetics, Transnational Cultures
  • Négritude and Negrismo
  • Poetry and Empire
  • Poetics and Hermeneutics
  • Poetry of Social Protest
  • Representations of the Haitian Revolution
  • Romanticism and its Discontents
  • Romanticisms East and West
  • Russian Symbolism in Western context
  • Studies in Poetry: Prosody, Trope, and Mode
  • Theory and Practice of Poetry Translation
  • Twentieth-century Russian Poetry

Single author courses are also appropriate. Some recent offerings include classes on Propertius, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Hölderlin, Mandelstam, Whitman, and Césaire.

Cluster Students are also expected to participate in the following events and programs:

  • The Futures of Poetics Workshop: A working group that convenes to discuss works in progress by faculty from Northwestern (and at large) who are pioneering new approaches to the study of poetry and poetics; works in progress by Northwestern graduate students, such as potential article submissions and dissertation chapters; and readings in poetology dedicated to generating fresh, ecumenical accounts of key issues and emergent idioms for poetics scholarship in the 21st century.
  • The Graduate Student Theory Reading Group: A quarterly meeting of graduate students, facilitated by the Poetry and Poetics Cluster Fellows, that focuses on a text or set of issues chosen by participating students in consultation with the Cluster Director.  This reading group emphasizes scholarship on the recent and distant past as well as the contemporary moment and is geared toward helping students address open questions and undigested archives in a relaxed atmosphere of shared exploration.
  • The Poetry and Poetics Speaker Series: A well-attended reading series and accompanying workshops by a distinguished group of contemporary poets from around the world, including M. NourbeSe Philip (Canada/Trinidad), Ed Roberson (U.S.), Raúl Zurita (Chile), Claudia Roquette-Pinto (Brazil), Christian Bök (Canada), Ilya Kutik (U.S.), Keorapetse Kgositsile (South Africa), Andrei Levkin (Russia), and Nathaniel Tarn (France/U.S.), as well as workshops and lectures by leading theoreticians and critics of poetry, such as Jahan Ramazani (U.Virginia.), Derek Attridge (York), and Clare Cavanagh and Sam Weber (Northwestern).  PPC has also invited emerging poets and rising stars in the field of poetics to be a part of our speaker series and workshops, including Elizabeth Marie Young (U.S.), Nathalie Stephens/Nathanaël (U.S.), Ronaldo V. Wilson (U.S.), and Tomás Urayoán Noel (U.S./Puerto Rico).