• Unit 2: Continuity and Change in Poetic Form

    Building on the socio-historical context and primary texts we read in the last unit, here we will read the works of a number of important and varied poets writing during this time. After the last unit, you may not be surprised to hear that authors of the American Renaissance explored older literary forms like poetry, the short story, and the novel, and developed new forms as they shaped and responded to the changing nature of American society. Following European Romanticism, many American poets redefined poetry less in terms of preconceived form than in terms of organic structure. Doing so led to some of the most important formal innovations of the time, spearheaded by Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. At the same time, debates circulated around both form and content of poetry, as exemplified by Edgar Allan Poe's influential criticism. Read through this unit with an eye toward poetic form and its literary traits. 

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 9 hours.

    • 2.1: Two Competing Poetics

        • 2.1.1: Ralph Waldo Emerson

        • 2.1.2: Edgar Allen Poe

      • 2.2: The Question of Poetry's Social Role

      • 2.3: Walt Whitman, Free Verse, and the Poetics of Democracy

      • 2.4: Emily Dickinson and the Personal Lyric

      • Unit 2 Assessment

        • Receive a grade