Chocolate Cake or the Melba Toast of Carl Sandburg? Billy Collins?

Fall 2010 - En 4/6990 Special Topics: William Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, and Wallace Stevens: The Modernist Culmination of Early Modern Meditative Poetry

With thanks to Dr. Raymond for approval of this course:

Course description: For readers afraid of John Ashbery's oeuvre, Wallace Stevens's poetry is the culmination of early modem meditative poetry (in British English and American English, that is) including such talents as William Shakespeare, John Donne, George Herbert, Andrew Marvell, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, John Keats, William Blake, Percy Shelley, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Robert Frost. We will trace the meditative tradition from some devotional verse to some love poetry, to several sorts of landscape poetry/pastoral poetry (Renaissance, British Romantics, American Romantics, American Modernists) to modem and post-modem exploration of the creative mind itself. This poetry is dense and rich and requires rigorous re-reading of the poetry and the critical tradition that enhances it. If easy accessible poetry is your cup of tea, then this course is not for you.

The class will discuss key poems by many of the above authors to create a framework for concentration on the best work of the three poets whose names are in the course title.

Primary Texts: Most likely we will use these three primary texts:

  1. From Norton British Romantics, 8th edition, The Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, and the selection of poems by William Wordsworth excluding The Prelude.
  2. From Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman's Song of Myself(Norton)
    *For Walt Whitman, consult critics in the most recent Norton edition of Leaves of Grass.
  3. The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, Vintage paperback.

*Secondary Texts:

I urge serious Undergraduates and all Graduate Students to buy these secondary texts (now in March 2010, not December 2010!) Try to get them second-hand on Amazon and perhaps share cost and texts?

Richard Lyons