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American Culture Studies

Topics in American Literature I: American Women Poets and the Trouble with Normal

American Culture Studies 4231 - Spring 2020

In this course we will examine the lives and works of poets who were engaged in a collective project of thinking through the trouble with normal. Beginning with Emily Dickinson, we will seek to understand her literary achievements in the social, political, and cultural contexts of her time. To this end, we will read read her letters as well as her poems, considering as well the response of her contemporaries to what they knew of her extraordinary life. We will also read poems by some of her more visible contemporaries, such as Julia Ward Howe, Lucy Larcom, and Frances Harper, all of whom tend to be overlooked today. How is it that Dickinson has emerged as the exception to gendered and raced norms of oblivion? What does her example teach us about women poets in the public sphere? During the second half of the semester, we will the read poetry and prose by modernist women poets such as Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Sylvia Plath, all of whom were less ambivalent than Dickinson about their public performances of gender. Or were they? How do they view Dickinson's legacy and to what kinds of queer new womanhood do they aspire? Satisfies the Nineteenth Century requirement.

Section 01

Topics in American Literature I
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