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ENG 391

Authors: Advanced Topics

In-depth study of one or more writers. Examples include Joyce, Morrison, Samuel Johnson, and Henry James.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
1 course

Fall Semester information

Marion McInnes

391A: Authors:Adv.Tps:Whitman

Authors: Advanced Topics: Whitman

Unorthodox, sensual, prophetic, and new, Walt Whitman burst into American poetry with the first edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855. His poems celebrate bodily pleasures and existential anguish; he's frank about sex, sexual attraction, depression, and grief. But his poems also celebrate the whole United States in a big, sweeping way, as he attempts to embrace every American in every imaginable profession, insisting that old destructive ways of thinking be exposed as sham and thrown away.

In this class we'll read Whitman's poems from the second half of the 19th century; we'll read biographies of the poet; we'll study his involvement in the relatively new art of photography; and we'll consider Whitman's legacy in the 20th century, looking at poets (in the US, in particular) who continue to take Whitman as their inspiration.

Finally, following the lead of the poet himself, we'll look at what Whitman has to say on topics about which we are still debating: sex, the body, "manliness" and "womanliness," race, class, and the environment.