American Poetry from the Revolution to the Civil War
In this course we will undertake a collaborative exploration of a wide range of poetry published in the United States from Revolutionary Era to the Civil War. This field offers us two immensely famous poets, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, and some other versifiers better remembered for their prose: Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Herman Melville. The field also contains a group of poets who had much more notoriety in their own time than in ours--including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, and William Cullen Bryant--and an array of women poets other than Dickinson, such as Mercy Otis Warren, Phillis Wheatley, and Lydia Sigourney. Across our readings, we will see and hear the genres of poetry refract the first 100 years of political and social development in the new nation. We will note how poems both register and interpret the wars that bookend the syllabus, the problems of American identity, slavery, the frontier, changing gender and class roles, and language itself as a means of knowing the world and communicating ideas. Course requirements: careful reading, informal written responses, lively participation, and three short papers.