Walt Whitman and the Birth of Modern American Poetry
Date: September 2009
Duration: 8 hours 18 minutes
In this course, Walt Whitman and the Birth of Modern American Poetry, we'll explore how Walt Whitman broke with the tyranny of European literary forms to establish a broad, new voice 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. Passionate democracy is what Whitman called his invention, and like the inventions of Edison, it would transform not only the practices of its field but also the larger dimensions of American life. Whitman named what it was to be American, he catalogued and indexed and sang and scribed it, and his influence on his contemporaries and his descendants transcends the boundaries of poetry and becomes, in many ways, the story of young America. By teaching people what Whitman's 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.