Genes and Poems: Creating Form and Meaning

Spring 2019
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

genetics, molecular biology
Suzanne Simons square
poetry and literary arts, community studies/Middle East studies, journalism

What is a gene? What is a poem? This program aims to investigate parallels and intersections between the basic units of life and language. What is the relationship between meaning and form? What elements do a gene and a poem need to be effective? What are the properties of translation, transcription, interpretation and rendering, and how do they affect access and meaning? How do we measure when a form is complete?

In this program we will explore genes and poems as separate and connected entities. In the process we will consider how we create meaning and connections through processes such as parallelism, allegory, and metaphor. In poetry this will include reading and writing of literary, spoken-word and experimental forms, including free verse and patterned poems ranging from rhymed couplets to the more intricate villanelles and sestinas. Revisions to our original poems will be heavily emphasized. We will also participate in local poetry events, such as spoken-word performances and literary poetry readings. In biology we will examine the history of the gene, a term that has changed its meaning from an abstract particle of inheritance, to a unit of DNA sequence encoding a protein to a script for synthesizing imagined new functions. We will introduce the principles of genetics and molecular biology and carry out experiments in the laboratory.

Program activities will include lectures, workshops, labs, field trips, guest speakers, and films. Student learning will be assessed by a program portfolio, writing assignments, exams, formal reading of original poems or spoken-word pieces, and a lab notebook. Credits equivalencies may be awarded in introductory biology and introductory poetry.

Fields of study: 

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in: biology, poetry and literary arts, and education.

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Scheduled for: Day

Located in: Olympia