“I perceive I have not really understood any thing, not a single object, and that no man ever can,” wrote Walt Whitman in a great poem of 1860. “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant,” answered Emily Dickinson a few years later, as if suggesting a strategy for how to write one’s way into Whitman’s radical uncertainty. These articulations of knowing and unknowing, of telling and untelling, continue to thread their way into U.S. poetry today. This course will explore bewilderment as both a poetic strategy and an ethical position. How do error, randomness, contradiction, obliquity, and dissociation serve the poem and the poet? How do such strategies counter ideas of literary mastery, heroism, virtuosity, privilege and celebrity? What are the political possibilities of such counter stances, especially as embodied and expressed by poets who speak from outside the stronghold of the white male establishment? We will primarily read from recently published work in the U.S., but will also be interested to track the literary traditions that have shaped how contemporary poets think and write. Authors read may include: Wanda Coleman, Eileen Myles, Anne Carson, Layli Long Soldier, Vanessa Angelica Villarreal, Fanny Howe, Terrance Hayes, Jennifer Chang, Tiana Clark, Brenda Hillman, Jane Wong, Tommy Pico, Paisley Rekdahl, Brian Teare, Diana Khoi Nguyen, and C. D. Wright.
The Class: Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: Classroom participation in discussion, several papers of graduated lengths and complexity (for a total of 20 pages of writing).
Prerequisites: a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam
Enrollment Preferences: potential sophomore English majors have first choice, then prospective or current American Studies majors
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
WS Notes: Gateway courses in English traditionally emphasize writing skills, and this course is no exception. Attention will paid to drafts and revisions of essays.
DPE Notes: The vast majority of works read are authored by poets outside the white male straight cisgender establishment. More importantly, we will constantly engage the question of how poetry may serve the needs of equity and inclusion in the U.S. contemporary literary marketplace.
Attributes: ENGL 200-level Gateway Courses
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- AMST 232 - Bewilderment: U.S. Poetry