For College & Graduate Credit

Poetry in America: Whitman and Dickinson

This course focuses on the poetry of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, two influential and iconic American poets of the 19th century. First, we will encounter Walt Whitman, a quintessentially American writer whose work continues to bear heavily upon the American poetic tradition. We will explore Whitman’s relationship to the City, the Self, and the Body through his life and poetry. Then, we turn to Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most distinctive and prolific poets. While Dickinson wrote nearly 2,000 poems, she chose never to publish, opting instead to revisit and revise her works throughout her lifetime.  Keeping this dynamic of self-revision in mind, we will consider a number of Dickinson’s poems—many seemingly in tension with one another—concerned with Nature, Art, the Self, and Darkness. We will travel to the Dickinson Collection at Harvard’s Houghton Library, and to Amherst, Massachusetts, paying a visit to the house in which the poet lived and wrote until her death in 1886.