ENGL 343
Whitman and Dickinson in Context Fall 2021
Division I Writing Skills

Class Details

In this tutorial, we will read closely the works of two of the most influential and experimental poets in the nineteenth-century U.S., Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. In addition to studying in depth their poems and other writings–in Whitman’s case, his essays, in Dickinson’s, her letters–we will delve into some of the major critical debates surrounding their work, both individually and when compared to one another. For example, Whitman is often viewed as perhaps the most public nineteenth-century American poet, whereas Dickinson is regarded as perhaps the most “private.” We will interrogate this assumption, exploring how each poet represents publicity and privacy in their work, as well as their efforts to “perform” and/or reform an American self. We will also examine how each poet engages questions of gender and sexuality, as well as contemporary debates surrounding such issues as abolition, slavery, women’s suffrage, temperance, and settler colonialism. We will consider what role their whiteness plays in their poetry and personas. Finally, we will explore Whitman and Dickinson’s relation to significant literary and philosophical movements of the period, including transcendentalism and the culture of sentiment. Throughout the course, emphasis will be on analyzing and generating interpretations of Whitman and Dickinson’s works, constructing critical arguments in dialogue with other critics, formulating cogent written critiques, and carrying on an oral debate about a variety of interpretations. Students will meet with the instructor in pairs for an hour each week. They will alternate between writing 5- to 7-page papers and commentaries on their partner’s papers.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 1922
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: five 5- to 7-page papers, final paper, oral presentation and critique
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: English majors
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
WS Notes: Students will write at least five 5-7 page papers, five responses to their partner's writing, and on-going commentary from the instructor on their writing skills.
Attributes: AMST Arts in Context Electives
ENGL Literary Histories B

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