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The Philosophy of Literature

5. Poetry: Form and Content

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about three peculiar features of poetry that have attracted the attention of philosophers: first, the fact that the precise meaning of a poem can never be captured in a paraphrase; second, the fact that the form of a poem is indivisible from its content; and third, the fact that the core value of a poem lies in the experience that the poem affords when it’s read as a poem. What makes each of these statements true?


In this course, Professor Peter Lamarque (University of York) provides a broad introduction to the philosophy of literature. In the first module, we think about what philosophy actually is. What kinds of questions does the philosopher of literature attempt to answer. After that, we turn to one of the key questions that arises in the philosophy of literature – namely, what is literature? In the third module, we consider some philosophical puzzles relating to fictional characters, before turning in the fourth module to the relation of literature to truth. Finally, in the fifth module, we turn to poetry, focusing in particular on three widely-accepted ‘truths’ about poetry, and what makes them true.


Peter Lamarque is Professor of Philosophy at the University of York. He has a long interest in relations between philosophy and literature. One of guiding ideas of his work has been the thought that engaging with literature is not just a 'natural' activity, reading and responding to texts, but an activity deeply shaped by cultural conventions. His recent publications include The Philosophy of Literature (Wiley, 2009), Work and Object: Explorations in the Metaphysics of Art (OUP, 2010), and The Opacity of Narrative (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Lamarque, P. (2018, September 06). The Philosophy of Literature - Poetry: Form and Content [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lamarque, P. "The Philosophy of Literature – Poetry: Form and Content." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 06 Sep 2018,