Towards a Theory of Lyric Curriculum


  • Scott Jarvie San Jose State University
  • Cori McKenzie SUNY Cortland


We take, as point of departure for this inquiry, the event of Amanda Gorman’s reading of her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 US Presidential Inauguration, which did something poems rarely do: resonate widely. Its broad uptake in classrooms and communities suggests that poems are not inert words on a page; instead, they do things. This conception of poetry as a social actor is articulated by theorist Jonathan Culler, whose Theory of the Lyric examines poetry from antiquity through today to identify different social functions of lyric poems. In this paper we take up Culler’s theory and pair it with a number of lyric texts as we wonder and worry about curriculum. What happens if we imagine that curriculum might be good for freeing students (and teachers!) from prosaic perceptions of the world? Or How might curricula, like lyric texts, create communities of care and attention? What we offer, ultimately, is as much curriculum poem as academic study.