L: Reading Walt Whitman
Required of students in Writing and Literature. Ways of Reading focuses on a particular canonical author or text(s), utlizing various critical perspectives and secondary sources to support a deeper understanding of the work. The course further develops and reinforces practical skills in close reading, historical contextualization, applied critical theory, and the use of discipline-specific research tools and resources, encouraging conscious reflection on critical presuppositions and practices. This course prepares students to emter the Critical Essay Workshop.
American poetry, written in "the American language," made its debut on July 4, 1855 with the appearance of a small, self-published volume called Leaves of Grass by an unknown poet named Walt Whitman. Thus was born the central figure in American poetic history with whom every modern writer to come would have to contend. Leaves of Grass, an extravagant, ecstatic, visionary statement of national purpose, underwent nearly forty years of expansion and revision. Whitman also produced hundreds of essays, treatises, letters, and notes that further elaborate his complex and often contradictory philosophy. In addition to reading the primary texts, this seminar will consider sources, strategies and theories that Whitman developed to accommodate an exploded, fragmented, multitudinous culture - a culture of cultures that could not be represented by traditional European verse. We will examine critical readings of Whitman, as well as several international modern poets, largely Spanish language, Portuguese, and French, for whom the Whitmanic vision of democracy, its long-legged line, and its use of prose syntax and diction has left an enduring legacy.