Broken Hierarchies - the Poetry of Geoffrey Hill (1932-2016)

Ref: C3529045

Geoffrey Hill (1932-2016) is one of the greatest poets and most challenging critics of the last half-century. His lectures on poetry given whilst he was Oxford Professor of Poetry (2010-2015) are an astonishing justification of the potentially redemptive art of poetry in our age of political violence and what Hill referred to as a time of 'plutocratic anarchy'. His bleakly radiant poems are noted for their complexity, and their engagement with the continuing relevance of the best that mankind has thought. His work has been referred to as 'high modernist', 'post-Christian', 'metaphysical', ‘prophetic’. Above all, Hill was a 'visionary philologist' believing words to be 'living powers', having a life of their own into which the poet and the reader should enter with due fear and trembling. His collected poems, entitled Broken Hierarchies, lead us to ask whether freedom or anarchy is the result when hierarchies of any kind are brought down. How far is iconoclasm a new creation?

Course aim

To acquire an overview and appreciation of the work of one of the greatest poets of the past 50 years, Geoffrey Hill (1932-2016), as found in his Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952-2012, (publ. 2015).

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • An interest in English literature and the poetry of the twentieth century will help. An interest in the idea of post-religious or post-Christian writing, and the purpose of 'serious' poetry.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Undertake close, shared reading of challenging poems.
  • Tackle intentionally ‘difficult’ and 'serious' poetry.
  • Research ideas and word-histories for the purpose of evaluating a poem.
  • Better understand the idea of post-religious, or post-Christian culture.
  • Recognise the traditional and the original in Geoffrey Hill's work.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions

What else do I need to know?

  • A selection of materials and basic equipment will be provided but you are welcome to bring additional materials with you
  • A copy of Geoffrey Hill's Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952-2012 (publ. 2015) would be ideal. Photocopies of key poems will be provided, as well as select extracts from Hill's Collected Critical Writings, edited by Kenneth Haynes in 2008.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • Jeffrey Wainwright’s Acceptable Words: Essays on the poetry of Geoffrey Hill, Manchester University Press, 2012.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here
  • The course offers an empowering approach to making sense of classic (printed) literary texts. This is a transferable skill, and a gift for life!

Download full Course information sheet

Broken Hierarchies - the Poetry of Geoffrey Hill (1932-2016)

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  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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