English R1B

Reading and Composition: A Poetic Education in the American Grain

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
20 Spring 2013 Miller, Christopher Patrick
TTh 3:30-5 225 Wheeler

Book List

Ashbery, John: Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror; Bishop, Elizabeth: Poems; Frost, Robert: North of Boston; Howe, Susan: Souls of the Labradie Tract; Hughes, Langston: Selected Poems; Stein, Gertrude: Selected Writings; Whitman, Walt: Poetry and Prose; Williams, William Carlos: Imaginations


Why is there education, there is education because the two tables which are folding are not tied together with a ribbon, string is used and string being used there is a necessity for another one and another one not being used to hearing shows no ordinary use of any evening and yet there is no disgrace in looking, none at all.  This came to separate when there was simple selection of an entire pre-occupation… A curtain, a curtain which is fastened discloses mourning, this does not mean sparrows or elocution or even a whole preparation, it means that there are ears and very often much more altogether.

            - Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons (1914)

At a time when the role and structure of education is being redefined in the United States, we will investigate what role poetry and poetic thinking has in the formation both of individuals and of a national identity.  The challenge will be to develop language for what "poetic" speech can accomplish and how it might make available different ways of learning, knowing, belief, and care.

The class will be divided into two sections: a brief history of American poetry and "poetic" renditions of America's cultural and historical formation.  We will also read some foundational texts about poetics.  The goal of the class is to establish how poetry works and what kinds of models of personhood, value, and social/political life it imagines.  With some concrete examples in place, we will then attempt to understand how these poets mobilize these concepts to re-interpret notions of historical progress and national formation.

Individual research projects can be designed to evaluate a body of poems or use the resources of poetry and poetics to interpret another generic form, historical moment, event, etc.



History of the Lyric:

Song of Myself – Walt Whitman

Three Lives & Everybody's Autobiography– Gertrude Stein

North of Boston – Robert Frost

Spring and All – William Carlos Williams

North and South – Elizabeth Bishop

Montage to a Dream Deferred – Langston Hughes

Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror – John Ashbery

Souls of the Labadie Tract – Susan Howe


Poetic Critics of the United States:

Democratic Vistas – Walt Whitman

Education of Henry Adams – Henry Adams

D.H. Lawrence on American Literature

The Making of Americans – Gertrude Stein

In the American Grain – William Carlos Williams

My Emily Dickinson – Susan Howe


In addition, we will also be reading selections of writings on poetics from Aristotle, Sydney, Wordsworth, Shelley, and others.

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