The study of literature often relies on seemingly “objective” labels to sort and group writers. These four major American poets from the last century were often segregated into different categories: Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) and Amiri Baraka (1934-2014) clumped together as black poets; Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) labelled a “Confessional Poet” and/or taught as a female poet but not a “white poet”; Frank O’Hara (1926-1966), designated a “New York School” poet but not a “white poet” or “male poet.” In looking closely at the poetry of these four writers, whose work is usually not taught side by side, we will ask questions about the assumptions implicit in the concepts and categories of American (and English-language) poetics and how literary history usually gets written. For example, who is the presumed “universal” poetic speaker? Who is the assumed reader? Do our attitudes about raced and gendered bodies influence how we read raced and gendered poets? Is a queer poet read with the same particularity as a black poet?
The Class: Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: Two short papers (4-5 pp.) = 25%; One final paper (8-10 pp.) = 50%; Two short response papers = 15%; Participation = 10%
Enrollment Preferences: AMST majors
Distributions: Division II