English R1B

Reading and Composition: Sorrow Songs: Aural Poetry in Nineteenth-Century America

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
7 Fall 2014 Osborne, Gillian K.
TTh 3:30-5 225 Wheeler

Book List

Allen, Garrison, & Ware, eds.: Slave Songs of the United States: The Classic 1867 Anthology; Dale, Robert, Ed.: Changing is Not Vanishing: A Collection of Indian Poetry to 1930; Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth: The Song of Hiawatha and Other Poems; Whitman, Walt: The Complete Poems


In this introduction to college composition and research, we will develop skills of close-attention to literary texts and analytic argument through readings of songs, poems, and critical essays, and we will investigate how literary texts (or other objects of attention) invite compelling research questions. In particular, our readings will investigate the relationships between Native American and African American oral poetic traditions and dominant (printed and white) poetic practices of the period. Our conversations will be guided by such questions as: As these oral traditions began to be transcribed for the first time in the nineteenth-century, what poetic expectations shaped their transcriptions? What poetic traditions did Native American poets and black lyricists later draw on? How did they extend or subvert these traditions? What is the relationship between poetry and song? What made poetry such a successful cultural form in the nineteenth-century and what does it mean to study this form as history today? What does it mean to be an author? And what does it mean to read a text whose author, or authors, has been lost to history? 

Writing assingments will include a diagnostic essay, a brief "position" paper geared at developing an argument, and a longer research paper. Students will practice reading, argument founded in textual evidence, and developing essayistic structure and style through composition and revision of their own assignments and by responding to one another's work. During the second half of the semester, one session a week will be devoted entirely to locating and working with historical texts beyond our primary reading materials, and to developing library research skills.

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