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Ecopoetry: Ecocritical Approaches to American Poetry - graded paper

Class at Faculty of Arts |



Week 1 (February 22):   Introduction

Week 2 (March 1):         William Cullen Bryant, Lydia Huntley Sigourney, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau

Week 3 (March 8):          Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson

Week 4 (March 15):        Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore

Week 5 (March 22):        Lorine Niedecker, Elizabeth Bishop

Week 6 (March 29):        Theodor Roethke, David Wagoner

Week 7 (April 5):             W. S. Merwin, Gary Snyder, Wendell Berry

Week 8 (April 12):           Richard Wilbur, Adrienne Rich

Week 9 (April 19):           Mary Oliver, Maxine Kumin

Week 10 (April 26):         Louise Glück, Jorie Graham

Week 11 (May 3):           Linda Hogan, Joy Harjo

Week 12 (May 10):         tbs

Week 13 (May 17):         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 poetry, the third class will be dedicated to Modernism, but the majority of the texts will be from the last seventy years of American poetry.

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