World Poetry and Social Justice: Class, Race, and Gender, or the Sons and Daughters of Walt Whitman

Spring 2012, Dr. Richard Lyons, 317F Lee Hall

EN 4/6953, Form and Theory of Poetry, Tuesday/Thursday. 3:30-4:45 p.m.

This is a literature class, not a creative-writing class.


Despite Glenn Beck's television rants, social justice has, for centuries, been a central tenet of the American Constitution and most Christian faiths.
We will explore the tension in American Poetry between private and public discourse, between individual freedom and communal responsibility.
We will explore how aesthetic skills can overcome the simplistic response of "So What?" to both the best confessional verse and the best political verse.

Required Reading:

--- Xeroxes of poems by Emily Dickinson (see the poems on M.A. Exam List)
--- Xeroxes of a few poems by Sylvia Plath
--- Xeroxes of a few poems by Caesar Vallejo (Peru), Nazim Hikmet (Turkey)

  1. Song of Myself by Walt Whitman
  2. Five Decades, Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda, Nobel Laureate of Chile, translation by Ben Belitt.
  3. This Time: New and Selected Poems of Gerald Stern
  4. TBA: Class Choice or Student choice of one of these poetry books: (a) Vice, Selected Poems of Ai (Florence Anthony) or Vivisect by Lisa Lewis or (c) one volume of Adrienne Rich's many books to be chosen by professor.

Required Writing:

three medium-length essays