Debra Kang Dean

MWF 2:30p-4:25p (30 students) 3 cr., A&H, Second Eight-Week Section (Begins October 24). Authorization to add this course can be obtained from Mary K. Rothert, undergraduate advisor, Department of English, Ballantine 442.

TOPIC: "The Poetry of Sacred Places"

According to Roderick Nash, in many traditions paradise was located on an island; like the biblical garden of Eden, it was believed to be a place set apart, a place where there was no gap between desire and fulfillment. Beginning with the Romantic poets, childhood became the locus of a private paradise, lost through an inevitable fall out of innocence and into the world of experience. If we have, indeed, fallen, where is it we find ourselves? Having been exiled from that “first place,” is it possible to return?

Contemporary poets offer a range of responses to these questions. For example, in “Nostos” Louise Glück writes, “We look at the world once in childhood. / The rest is memory.” Home, exile, and return— this cluster of ideas as they are related to memory and imagination, to a physical landscape translated into a spiritual place, is the subject of this course. We'll explore differing perspectives on the idea of sacred places through the writings, both in poetry and prose, of contemporary poets, including Elizabeth Bishop, W.S. Merwin, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Glück herself. In the process, we'll gain insights into the way these ideas still exert a powerful influence in our own lives and cultures.


Bill Holm, Eccentric Islands (prose)
Elizabeth Bishop, Geography III
W.S. Merwin, The Rain in the Trees
Louise Gluck, The Wild Iris
Robert Hass, Praise
Yusef Komunyakaa, Magic City
Mark Irwin, White City
Eavan Boland, In a Time of Violence
Shara McCallum, The Water between Us
Oscar de la Paz, Names above Houses

Course requirements will include class attendance and participation, short written responses to the assigned reading, and a 10page essay that is a personal response to the question of sacred places.