Nineteenth-Century American Poetry
In the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman claimed that "the United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem." We might ask any number of questions in response to Whitman. If the United States are a poem, then who wrote it? What is this poem about? What genre is it? Is anyone reading it? Is it actually any good? Though we might approach Whitman's statement with some apprehension from our historical moment, this course will take seriously American life lived within poetry and the lives poems lived across the country. Together, we will track the development of American poetry as it engages with enslavement, abolition, genocide, war, beauty, nature, racialization, constructions of gender, sexuality, and affect. Ultimately, we will ask what reading nineteenth-century American poetry, or nineteenth-century America as a poem, might mean for our understanding of the country today. Readings may include Bryant, Poe, Longfellow, Schoolcraft (Bamewawagezhikaquay), Whitman, Dickinson, Harper, Dunbar, and Noguchi.