Fall 2020 Undergraduate English Courses

358:342 Nineteenth Century American Poetry

01  MW7   CAC   05676  MCGILL   FH-B3

Two nineteenth-century American poets are justifiably famous: Walt Whitman, who is known for his radical experiments in representing sex and democracy, and for breaking the metrically regular poetic line; and Emily Dickinson, who is known for undermining poetic tradition from within and who has been claimed as a literary foremother by generations of women poets. But nineteenth-century poetry was more than simply a prelude to modernist experimentation. Poets wrote to document the violent appropriation of Native American land and to protest slavery; they sought to define the beautiful, to question (and enforce) the sex/ gender system, to represent national aspirations, to reflect on the crisis of the Civil War, to mourn the dead, to record dissent, and to heal sectional division. In this course we will study the poetry of Whitman and Dickinson alongside that of numerous other nineteenth-century poets whose poems are worth remembering.

Students need not have completed English 201 before enrolling in this class, although it will certainly be helpful. In order to make sure everyone starts on the same page, we will devote the first few classes of the semester to reviewing some of the basics of poetic analysis.

Students will complete a handful of short close-reading assignments, write three short papers, and complete a take-home final exam.