L356 25921 AMERICAN POETRY TO 1900
Christoph Irmscher

2:30p-3:45p MW (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

The course provides an introduction to the rich and fascinating tapestry of voices that constitutes nineteenth-century American poetry, including, of course, Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Herman Melville, and Walt Whitman but also less familiar names such as Lydia Sigourney, George Moses Horton, and Frances Harper. In our dealings with the now safely canonical writers, the no-longer-canonical ones, and the many forgotten ones, we will ask ourselves what, if anything, distinguishes a "major" from a "minor" poet, what it meant to be a "public" poet, what forms poets used, what audiences they had in mind, and how they responded to the major crises of the century, the genocide of the Native Americans, slavery, and the Civil War. At the end of the course, the myth, still perpetrated by mainstream critics today, that no poetry worth our time was written in America before Whitman, will have evaporated. Or so I hope. Students are required to buy the two- volume edition, American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century, edited by John Hollander and published by the Library of America, as well as John Hollander's slim volume, Rhyme's Reason.