About The Course

In this course we'll explore how Walt Whitman broke with the tyranny of European literary forms to establish a broad, new voicc for American poetry. By throwing aside the stolid conventions and cliched meters of old Europe, Walt Whitman produced a vital, compelling form of verse, one expressive of the nature of his new world and its undiscovered countries, both physical and spiritual, intimate and gloriously public. Whitman named what it was to he American, he catalogued and indexed and sang and scribed it, and his influence on his contemporaries and his descendants transccnds the boundaries of poetry and becomes, in many ways, the story of young America. By examining the life of Walt Whitman in the context of broad social and political changc, we'll learn why the values we as contemporary Americans prize were often decided and idealized by this period of our history.

By teaching people what Whitmans poetry means we'll teach them what makes America America. More than just a history of one poet or a study of his work, this course will provide a framework to investigate the cultural formation of the United States— the birth of its spiritual identity.

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