Course Catalog

Philosophy for Poets

All Levels | Philosophy and poetry come from the same source, said Heidegger, Arendt, and Aristotle. That source is thinking. How do poets show thinking? We will look at philosophical poems by Wordsworth, Rilke, Koethe, Carson, Hass, and Ryan. We’ll consider poetic philosophy by Herder, Descartes, Weil, and Merleau-Ponty, examining how each describes the sense of touch. No experience in philosophy required. We’ll find juicy words and new puzzles to drive our own writing. Course includes in-class exploratory writing and brief homework assignments to research examples. Thoughts and examples here.

Sample Schedule:

Class 1 | On Arguments
Readings from: Gregory Pardlo, Michelle Montaigne, W.B. Yeats, Plato, W.H. Auden and Hannah Arendt.

Class 2 | On Justice
Readings from: Plato, Republic. Robert Haas, Antigone.

Class 3 | On Clarity and the Self
Readings from: Descartes and Hume; W.C. Williams and Wallace Stevens.

Class 4 | On Beauty
Readings from: Plato, Kant, John Donne, G.M. Hopkins, Anne Carson.

Class 5 | On Touch
Readings from: Descartes, Hume, Herder, Schiller, Rilke.

Class 6 | On Touch
Readings from: Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean‐Luc Nancy, Arendt, Auden, Adrienne Rich, Jane Hirschfield.

Beginning Fall 2021, we will be adding select in-person classes back to our course catalog. The majority of our classes will still be offered via Zoom.

If a class says IN-PERSON in its title, it will take place in person at our permanent home in Seattle.

If a class says ASYNCHRONOUS in its title, it will take place on Wet Ink, our asynchronous learning platform.

If a class does not have a marker after its title, it will take place via Zoom.

Instructor: Kascha Semonovitch

Class Type: 6 Sessions

Start Date: 02/18/2018

End Date: 03/25/2018

Days of the Week: Sunday

Time: 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm PST

Minimum Class Size: 5

Maximum Class Size: 15

$265.50 Member Price:
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$295.00 General Price:

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Kascha Semonovitch

Kascha Semonovitch’s poems and essays have appeared in journals including Quarterly West, The Bellingham Review, Zyzzyva, The Kenyon Review and others, and in the chapbook Genesis by Dancing Girl Press. She has a PhD in philosophy from Boston College, an MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson College. She has fellowships at the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation, and her creative nonfiction was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Kascha has edited two collections of philosophical essays on early twentieth century European thought, and published academic essays, mostly recently Attention and Expression in Simone Weil. She has taught philosophy at Boston College, Seattle University, and Hugo House in Seattle. She runs an art gallery in Seattle.

Teaching Philosophy: I believe that we learn by reading – whether the work of our classmates, contemporary authors or canonical works. The work of a teacher lies in asking –and re-asking –questions that motivate us to pay attention to these texts. In class, we think together by articulating our interpretations. When we reach a conflict of interpretation – “Oh, I thought Robert Hass was talking about beauty” or “I thought Descartes meant his elbow”– then we inquire into the reasons for the conflict. After such careful reading, we are ready to re-read our own writing. We are better at paying attention to what is happening in syntax and semantics.

As a faculty member at Seattle University for over seven years, I taught the history of philosophy, critical thinking, and ethics. Philosophers pay attention to the history and internal consistency of systems and concepts. This type of paying attention is also invaluable to writers. For example, we might ask whether poet thought through the connections between the terms in a text and the deep history of texts that precede it? Does a fictional or poetic world hold together consistently? I love learning by reading with students.

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