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MUS 20 — The Poetry and Songs of Leonard Cohen

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Mondays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Oct 11—Nov 15
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Oct 13
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $360
Instructor(s): Timothy Hampton
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Oct 11—Nov 15
6 weeks
Refund Date
Oct 13
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Timothy Hampton
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
If I knew where the good songs come from, I’d go there more often. —Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) occupies a unique position in the pantheon of recent writers of popular songs. A published poet and novelist since his undergraduate years, he turned to writing songs in his early thirties, somewhat later than most of his peers. Cohen created an extraordinarily dense poetic universe, generating fables of desire, betrayal, and regret, all tinged with grudging irony and dark humor. In this course, we will investigate the nooks and crannies of Cohen’s poetic universe. We will listen carefully to his recordings, look at his poems, and consider his literary debts, from Federico García Lorca to the Hebrew Bible. We will explore his changing identities, from Canadian enfant terrible to aged Buddhist sage. We will trace how he develops from a poet who just happens to write songs into a full-blown professional songwriter. Along the way, we will spend time with his magnificent creations, ranging from “Suzanne” and “Famous Blue Raincoat,” to “Hallelujah” and “Democracy.”

Aldo Scaglione and Marie M. Burns Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and French, UC Berkeley; Director, Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities, UC Berkeley

Timothy Hampton writes about literature, music, and education. He is the author of Bob Dylan: How the Songs Work and Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History (forthcoming), and he is at work on a study of Leonard Cohen. A recipient of UC Berkeley's highest honor for teaching excellence, Hampton received a PhD in comparative literature from Princeton.

Textbooks for this course:

(Recommended) Leonard Cohen, Stranger Music (ISBN 978-0-679-75541-8)