ENGL435 - American Poetry: Beginning to the Present

Prerequisite: Two English courses in literature; or permission of ARHU-English department.

Selections of American poetry, from Bradstreet to contemporary free verse. Authors such as Whitman, Dickinson, Bishop, Hughes, Rich, and Frost.

Because of our approach to this in depth study of American poetry, this section of 435 is titled “American Sexual Poetics Revisited.”  Many of the “major,” most canonized poets in American traditions are widely recognized as lesbian, gay, or queer (Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Bishop, Hart Crane, Langston Hughes), and the various sexual dynamics of American literary history will contextualize our study as we begin by focusing on Whitman and Dickinson. 

An intensive study of lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer inscriptions in American poetry, this course will then examine the poetic productions and cultural reproductions of poets such as the diverse group collected into the Masquerade anthology, including these names you might well recognize (besides those already mentioned): W. H. Auden, Willa Cather, Hart Crane, Countee Cullen, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, H.D., Angeline Weld Grimké, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Sarah Orne Jewett, Amy Lowell, Mina Loy, Claude McKay, Herman Melville, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Richard Bruce Nugent, Muriel Rukeyser, George Santayana, May Sarton, Gertrude Stein,  Henry David Thoreau. Besides those, we will read Adrienne Rich, Mark Doty, Audre Lorde, Judy Grahn, and Minnie Bruce Pratt, Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin, Essex Hemphill, Frank O’Hara, May Swenson, and Kay Ryan (former poet laureate).  While we will probe ways in which LGBT or queer expressions are inflected by issues of race, gender, class, and high/low culture, we will especially scrutinize ways in which the performances and receptions of poets identified (by themselves or others) as LGBT or queer may perpetuate, challenge, and modify cultural mythologies about sexualities and their relevance to national, literary, artistic, aesthetic, and political endeavors.  Written assignments will be three 1-2 pp. close reading papers, regular contributions to discussions online, and a longer, more ambitious essay, blog, or other website production (the equivalent of 7-10 pp. paper) exploring in depth some aspect raised by our course of study.