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Ecopoetry: Ecocritical Approaches to American Poetry

Class at Faculty of Arts |


Week 1 (February 14):   Introduction

Week 2 (February 21): Lydia Huntley Sigourney, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson

Week 3 (February 28):   Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore

Week 4 (March 7):          Lorine Niedecker, Elizabeth Bishop

Week 5 (March 14):        no class – school holidays

Week 6 (March 22):        David Wagoner, W. S. Merwin, Gary Snyder, Wendell Berry

Week 7 (March 28):        Visiting prof. Jessica Bundschuh: Mushrooms in American Poetry

Week 8 (April 4):             no class – Irish Week

Week 9 (April 11):           Adrienne Rich, Mary Oliver, Maxine Kumin

Week 10 (April 18):         Louise Glück, Jorie Graham

Week 11 (April 25):         Linda Hogan, Joy Harjo

Week 12 (May 2):           tbs

Week 13 (May 9):           Closing remarks, annotated poem due



From its 19th-century beginnings American poetry has been concerned with man’s relationship to nature, which for long seemed vast and wild and indomitable, but this condition has changed dramatically. For more than two centuries, American poets have been deeply conscious of the presence of a world related to ours, but utterly different from it, and they tried to reach out to it, reflect on it and come to terms with it. Ecocritical perspective, which has become a significant trend in the last few decades, can offer interesting insights into these efforts.

The course will focus on the study American poetry in relation to ecocritical thought, paying close attention to the works of the poets who see “non-human” presence as fundamental for our own existence in the world, and whose poetry explores the complex and deeply problematic relationship between the world of man and the world of nature. Apart from poetry, ecocritical texts will also be read, and both the possibilities and the limits of the ecocritical perspective on poetry will be discussed.

In each class we will discuss a limited number poems by two or three different poets – the goal is not to introduce each poet in all his or her complexity, but rather to present a variety of approaches to “eco” topics. The first two classes will deal with the 19th century and Modernism respectively, but the majority of the texts will be from the last seventy years of American poetry.

Study programmes