Introduction

This module, the third installment of the multi-part Poetry in America series, focuses on the poetry of Walt Whitman, a quintessentially American writer whose work continues to bear heavily upon the American poetic tradition. We will explore Whitman’s relationship to the City, the Self, and the Body through his life and poetry. Distinguished guests in this module include Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, and Whitman scholar Karen Karbiener.

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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:

  • Whitman's formal and thematic innovation and its place within the American poetic tradition
  • How to identify poetic devices
  • Develop strategies for approaching a poem
  • How to make observations, understand structure, situate a text in history, and learn to enjoy language 

Meet The Faculty

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.

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