May 19, 2024  
2022-2023 Academic Catalog 
2022-2023 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

ENG 326-01 - Studies in American Poetry I

4 credits (Fall)
“Affectionate Absorption: The Case of Whitman and Dickinson.” Walt Whitman concludes his preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass with the proposition that “the proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.” These days few would argue that Whitman and Dickinson have not been “affectionately absorbed” by American literary culture. Such was not always the case, however. During the period when Whitman and Dickinson were producing the bulk of their work, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was arguably the most dominant literary figure in America. What happened? This course will explore the question of cultural absorption and the extent to which the form and content of Whitman’s and Dickinson’s poetry helped effect a shift in literary value during the twentieth century (earlier for Whitman, later for Dickinson). Analysis of work by Whitman, Dickinson, Melville, Emerson, Longfellow, and Frances Harper will help situate us within their nineteenth century literary context, and these will be followed by more recent works that may include poems or critical essays by Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, Derek Walcott, June Jordan, Susan Howe, Martin Espada, Mark Doty, and Heather McHugh. During the second half of the semester, we will focus on three specific cases in which the impact of Whitman or Dickinson on 20th century literary concerns is especially acute: the inaugural issue of Poetry magazine (1912); the publication of Howl (1955); and the publication of the Facsimile Edition of Dickinson’s poems (1981). We will conclude with a series of discussions on the politics of methodology and classroom practice in relation to the poetics of identity. Grade to be determined by class discussion, two short papers, a group presentation, and a 15-page research paper. 

Prerequisite: ENG 227 , ENG 228 , ENG 229 , ENG 231 , ENG 232 , or ENG 273 . The instructor will give serious consideration to students who have had ENG 206 
Instructor: Andrews