HUMS 252, Poetry and Objects

Meeting Time: 
W 1:30-3:20

This course on 20th and 21st century poetry studies the non-symbolic use of familiar objects in poems. We meet alternating weeks in the Beinecke library archives and the Yale Art Gallery objects study classroom to discover literary, material, and biographical histories of poems and objects. Additionally, there are scheduled readings and discussions with contemporary poets. Assignments include both analytical essays and the creation of online exhibitions.

Led by:

Karin Roffman has published essays on John Ashbery and twentieth- and twenty-first century writers and artists in RaritanModern Fiction StudiesArtforumRain TaxiYale Review and others.  Her first book, From the Modernist Annex: American Women Writers in Museums and Libraries (2010) won the University of Alabama Press’s American Literature Elizabeth Agee Manuscript Prize and subsequent publication. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in Humanities, English and American Studies at Yale University, where she is creating, “John Ashbery’s Nest,” a website and virtual tour of Ashbery’s Hudson house in collaboration with Monica Ong Reed and the Yale Digital Humanities Lab. She has previously taught at West Point and Bard College. 


This course was previously offered in the Fall of 2018. Testimonials are taken from student course evaluations.

  • “You will learn so much about archival work, get to meet and talk with really talented poets, and be able to develop your own research project over the course of the semester. Prof Roffman cares so much about the course and her students which means everyone grows as a group and on their own”
  • “This course was my favorite that I took this semester, and one of my favorites that I’ve taken at Yale. It’s a very intimate and surprising class–the small number of students creates an environment where it feels possible to be exploratory and experimental. The poetry selection is excellent, and the approach to each poem is incredibly unique. There is also the chance to meet well-known poets and pick their brains about their own poetry and objects, which seems like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
  • “…the main reason to take the class is for Professor Roffman. She is truly one of the best professors I’ve had at Yalecommitted, generous, thoughtful. She fosters a kind of incredible learning environment; her classroom often felt like an opportunity more for shared exploration than anything else, each week filled with its own funny moments and serendipitous delights.”