Examines important literary movements and literary genres with attention to their historical context. Emphasizes issues of race, class, and gender.
Twentieth Century American Poetry
Poetry is often imagined as making timeless statements about universal human truths, as being ethereal, ineffable, and transcendent--but poetry is always written, published, sold, and read under specific circumstances and in material forms. This course's exploration of twentieth-century American poetry will focus on how poems are shaped by historical context and textual materiality. We'll begin with Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, two nineteenth-century poets who are often credited with inaugurating a distinctly American poetry tradition. Whitman's revisions and reprintings of his *Leaves of Grass* and Dickinson's handbound, handwritten fascicles will give us a vocabulary for discussing the material features of texts and offer a framework for interpreting the twentieth century's innovations in poetic form. As we move through the twentieth century we'll read (and look at, and listen to) a wide range of poems in books, manuscripts, magazines, broadsides, and recordings, and we'll consider how these material forms have been adopted and adapted by modernist, post-war, and contemporary poets.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Each class session will typically include a combination of small group work, large group discussion, brief lecture, and a few minutes of in-class writing.
Although experience studying poetry and/or American literature will be an asset, this course assumes no prior knowledge of the topic and welcomes anyone interested in learning about American poetry, building knowledge collaboratively, and engaging in writing tasks that are creative as well as critical.
Class assignments and grading
Active, engaged, collaborative participation is important to the learning in this course and as such will be a significant component of your final grade. Expect to write a brief critical and/or creative writing assignment in preparation for each class session.
The midterm project for this course will ask you to create a broadside of a poem from the course accompanied by an artist's statement. For your final project, you will be asked to interpret one of the poems from the course in a new visual, sculptural, audio, video, and/or digital form and write an analytical essay that articulates your interpretive choices in relation to the knowledge we built in the course.