ENGL 5324 American Poetry

Fall 1997 Thursday 6-9 PM

To the Schedule of Readings and Assignments

objective of the course, method of evaluation, goals: The two poets for the graduate-level American Poetry course in Fall 1997 are Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Bishop.

Dickinson and Bishop are increasingly seen by literary critics and scholars as the greatest American poets of the 19th and 20th centuries respectively; and recent scholarship on both writers exemplifies important trends in literary study. The UTA Library also holds good collections related to both writers. Intensive study of primary and secondary texts related to these two poets will therefore teach us not only the outlines of Dickinson and Bishop studies, but will provide a paradigm for your future study of other poets.

We will read the basic canon of poems by each poet (and in the case of Dickinson, we'll learn just how hard it is to establish a basic canon of her work). We will also read several recent scholarly books and articles on each poet. The central course goal is to train students in mapping out a typical approach to exhaustive study of a major canonical author, with the understanding that a truly exhaustive study can only take place during the scope of a thesis or dissertation project. But the choice of authors is not purely as grist for the academic mill. Dickinson's poetry defies conventional style and conventional print form, and has served as a touchstone for 20th-century readers and writers. Bishop, old-fashioned by her contemporaries' standards, wrote verse of great subtlety and indirection during an age when confessional excess was the norm. Her verse from the 1940s-1970s has therefore had a great influence on current trends in American poetry back toward traditional form and toward personal detachment.

We will read The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (Little, 1960); The Complete Poems 1927-1979 by Bishop; Rowing in Eden by Martha Nell Smith; Dickinson and the Boundaries of Feminist Theory by Mary Loeffelholz; Elizabeth Bishop: The Biography of a Poetry by Lorrie Goldensohn, and Elizabeth Bishop: The Geography of Gender by Marilyn Lombardi. In addition each student will read one other recent book and write a review of it, and additional reading will be necessary to complete the final paper.

By the end of the semester students who have successfully completed the assignments and participated fully in the seminar discussions should be able to navigate the primary and secondary material in Dickinson and Bishop studies, and to use this expertise to write a 25-30 page professional paper on one of the poets (or both).

Students' progress toward these goals will be assessed by their performance on a 25-30 page professional paper. The final grade will be based solely on my professional judgment of the quality of that final paper, but extensive preparation for writing that paper will go on in the form of group peer critique and individual tutoring with the instructor. In addition, a 1000-word book review early in the semester will serve as a diagnostic of student progress.

required texts: Elizabeth Bishop, The Complete Poems 1927-1979 (Farrar); Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (Little); Lorrie Goldensohn, Elizabeth Bishop: The Biography of a Poetry (Columbia); Mary Loeffelholz, Dickinson and the Boundaries of Feminist Theory (Illinois); Marilyn Lombardi, Elizabeth Bishop: The Geography of Gender (Virginia); Martha Nell Smith, Rowing in Eden: Rereading Emily Dickinson (Texas). All titles are available in paper.

assignments: one book review (1000 words); one professional paper (25-30 pages); participation in course LISTSERV discussion. The book review will be graded, but the grade is diagnostic only. The grade on your professional paper, assuming completion of all other assignments, will be your grade for the course. Due dates for all assignments are listed in the schedule below.

drop policy: drop before midsemester (17 October) guarantees W for the course; drop after midsemester is against Graduate School rules

plagiarism policy: See the 1996-98 Graduate Catalogue, page 34.

disability policy: see page 49 of the 1996-98 Graduate Catalogue and call the Office of Students with Disabilities for more information (272-3364).


28 August: Syllabus, Introductions. Opening Lecture

4 September: Discuss Bishop: North & South, A Cold Spring

11 September: Discuss Bishop: Questions of Travel, Geography III

18 September: Goldensohn, Elizabeth Bishop: The Biography of a Poetry

25 September: Book Review Meeting. Each student will report on different academic book on Bishop or Dickinson. Your 1000-word book review is due at this meeting.

2 October: Lombardi, Elizabeth Bishop: The Geography of Gender


16 October: Dickinson, poems 1-727

23 October: Dickinson, poems 728-1775

30 October: Dickinson, textual issues

6 November: Smith, Rowing in Eden

13 November: Loeffelholz, Dickinson and the Boundaries of Feminist Theory

20 November: close reading workshop. Last class meeting.

Final Papers due by 11 December, to avoid X grade.