HUMS 319, Interpretations - John Ashbery’s Poetry

Meeting Time: 
Th 1:30p-3:20p

Course Description:

HUMS 319. A study of the poetry of John Ashbery (1927-2017) through examining the films, music, and art that provoked his imagination and structured and inhabited his poems. In the course, we study his original paintings and collages, read from his published art criticism, film and music reviews, and explore his off-the-cuff reactions to contemporary work in correspondence with friends. In short, we consider how he practiced and extended the art of American poetry through a vivid, lively, and continuous conversation with other arts. We also discuss critiques of the interdisciplinarity of Ashbery’s poetics in work by second generation New York School poets.

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 has not been previously offered. Testimonials are taken from student course evaluations from the 2018 course Poetry and Objects.

  • “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.”