American Poetry to 1900

L356 — Spring 2018

Ballantine Hall 236
Days and Times
11:15-12:30 TR
Course Description

The course provides an introduction to the rich and fascinating tapestry of voices that constitutes nineteenth-century American poetry, including, of course, Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Herman Melville, and Walt Whitman but also less familiar names such as Lydia Sigourney and George Moses Horton. Reading and re-reading the now safely canonical writers, the no-longer-canonical ones, and the many forgotten ones, we will ask ourselves what, if anything, distinguishes a major from a minor; what forms poets used; what audiences they had in mind, and how they responded to the major crises of the century, the genocide of the Native Americans, slavery, and the Civil War. But the real emphasis in this class will be on working with primary materials at the Lilly Library, where we will be spending as much time as possible. If you want to learn how to read manuscripts, think you might enjoy handling first editions, and fancy delving into boxes of ephemera at the Lilly Library, this is the course for you! Each student in the class will complete an independent research project that can take many different forms (a traditional paper, a web exhibit, a photo essay etc.). We'll only be using one textbook, the inexpensive paperback edition of John Hollander's American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century (ISBN-13: 9781883011369). It's out of print, but the Friends of the Arts Bookstore, where I recommend you buy your books since the money goes directly into student scholarships, has assured me that plenty of copies are still available. Instructor: Christoph Irmscher

Interested in this course?

The full details of this course are available on the Office of the Registrar website.

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