Introduction

This module, the fifth installment of the multi-part Poetry in America series, explores the Poetry of the Civil War and its Aftermath. We will:

  • Encounter such poets as Herman Melville, Julia Ward Howe, Walt Whitman, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson, Francis Ellen Watkins Harper, Emma Lazarus and W.E.B DuBois.
  • Examine the language of patriotism, pride, justice, violence, loss, and memory inspired by the Nation’s greatest conflict.
  • Travel to Boston’s Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Monument, and to Harvard’s Memorial Hall, two iconic sites of Civil War public memory.

Distinguished guests for this module include Harvard President Drew Faust, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner, Professor and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Henry Louis Gates Jr., baritone Davone Tines, and Harvard Civil War scholar John Stauffer, among others.

Led by Harvard Professor Elisa New, Poetry in America surveys nearly 400 years of American poetry. Through video lectures, archival images and texts, expeditions to historic sites, interpretive seminars with large and small groups, interviews with poets and scholars, and conversations about poems with distinguished Americans, Poetry in America embarks on a journey through the literature of a nation. Distinguished guests, including President Bill Clinton, Elena Kagan, Henry Louis Gates, Eve Ensler, John McCain, Andrea Mitchell, Michael Pollan, Drew Faust, Tony Kushner, and Nas, among others, bring fresh perspectives to the study of American Poetry.

What you'll learn:

  • Understand the interaction between conflict, language, and nation-building in the context of the American Civil War
  • Identify poetic devices
  • Develop strategies for approaching a poem 
  • Make observations, understand structure, situate a text in history, and enjoy language

Meet The Author

Elisa New

Elisa New

Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard University

Elisa New is the Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard University where she teaches classic American literature from Anne Bradstreet through Marilynne Robinson and from the Puritans to the present day. She is the author of New England Beyond Criticism: In Defense of America’s First Literature (Wiley Blackwell, 2014) The Regenerate Lyric: Theology and Innovation in American Poetry (Cambridge University Press, 1992) The Lines Eye: Poetic Experience, American Sight(Harvard University Press, 1999) and Jacob’s Cane: A Jewish Family’s Journey from the Four Lands of Lithuania to the Ports of London and Baltimore (2009). She also has a companion book to the Poetry in America project, How To Read American Poetry (2017-18), forthcoming from Wiley-Blackwell.

Course Provided By

Back To Top