In Poetry in America: The City from Whitman to Hip Hop, available for professional development, undergraduate credit, or graduate credit, we will consider those American poets whose themes, forms, and voices have given expression to visions of the city since 1850. Beginning with Walt Whitman, the great poet of nineteenth-century New York, we will explore the diverse and ever-changing environment of the modern city – from Chicago to London, from San Francisco to Detroit – through the eyes of such poets as Carl Sandburg, Emma Lazarus, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore, Frank O’Hara, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Hayden, and Robert Pinsky, as well as contemporary hip-hop and spoken word artists.
The City from Whitman to Hip Hop was originally developed as part of our Poetry in America for Teachers collection, which offers courses designed for educators who would like to expand their own reading and teaching practice. In the summer of 2019, our curriculum team updated the course to expand its reach to a wider audience. This fall, we are excited to offer The City from Whitman to Hip Hop to a diverse group of learners that includes K-12 teachers, high-school students, undergraduate and graduate students, and lifelong learners.
Course participants will master advanced strategies for close reading complex texts, and, relatedly, for facilitating productive discussion centered on those texts. Specifically, Poetry of the City is anchored in four approaches to close reading literary texts:
- Making Observations, with a focus on such skills as gathering and drawing conclusions from textual evidence; noticing patterns; tracing the development of central ideas and themes; detecting shifts in voice, tone, and point of view; and drawing comparisons across texts.
- Understanding Structure and Form, with a focus on analyzing structural features and patterns, such as the relation of structural sub-units (the sentence, the stanza) to one another and the whole; and the impact of formal choice (rhymed couplet or free verse, sonnet or limerick, lyric or narrative) on a given text.
- Situating Texts in History, with a focus on analyzing the relation of authors and texts to particular cultural, historical, and geographical contexts.
- Enjoying Language, with a focus on cultivating the pleasure and fun of poetry in the classroom, and on analyzing the function of such elements as figurative language, word choice, sound, and imagery within a literary text.
Poetry of the City features a combination of video tutorials and conversations, archival images and texts, expeditions to historic literary sites, sample classroom visits, and practical exercises designed to support skills development. In this course you will:
- Learn and practice the course’s four approaches to reading a poem, which also can be applied to reading literary texts more broadly (see Program Objectives). Laying the foundation with Professor New’s video tutorials, the course encourages skills practice through an online Writing Forum tool that enables you to create and share your own close readings.
- Develop the art of literary conversation and grow as a participant in, and facilitator of, discussions about poems and other texts. Literary texts allow us to explore language and build critical thinking skills together, discussing and debating what we have read as a community of learners and educators. Through video footage, you will observe facilitated poetry discussions featuring a wide range of participants – students, teachers, poets, musicians, actors, athletes, and others. You will also engage in conversation with your peers and course instructors through online discussion forums, where you will have the opportunity to apply the skills demonstrated in the course.
- Experience the power of place through video excursions to the actual sites where our poets lived and wrote. Together we will read Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” while riding across the East River, consider Frank O’Hara’s “A Step Away From Them” in mid-town Manhattan, and compare Carl Sandburg’s Chicago of 1914 with Gwendolyn Brooks’ Chicago of the 1950s.
WHO SHOULD ENROLL?
- Anyone interested in learning more about American poetry
- Motivated high-school students looking to experience college-level work
- Teachers and other educators working with secondary school students (grades 6-12) in English Language Arts, Humanities, History, and/or American Studies
- Teachers and other educators working with a focus on adult or lifelong learners
- Principals, administrators, curriculum developers, and others who support teachers in the grade levels and subject areas above
No specialized scholarly knowledge of American poetry is required for this course.
Course participants are encouraged to enroll with friends or colleagues.