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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Undergraduate Course: Writing the Body Politic (ENLI10193)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course will examine a selection of texts exploring the reinvention of cultural identity in American poetry from Walt Whitman to the present day. The course encompasses such broad cultural and intellectual movements as "Transcendentalism", "Modernism" and the "Postmodern". The term "body politic", while inescapably cultural and political in its primary emphasis, is also intended to felicitate discussion of those issues of sexuality and gender that inflect cultural and political subjectivities.
Course description The aim of this course is to explore representations of subjectivity, politics and culture in American poetry from Walt Whitman to the era of Donald Trump. The phrase "body politic" in the course title is intended to be read in at last three senses: to encourage discussion of place, region, location and community in American culture (the ways different parts of America embody aspects of a particular historical experience); to facilitate discussion of the idea of "America" projected at an ideological level (such as American exceptionalism, America First, the culture of the "melting pot" or the Global Superpower); and to explore perceptions of sexuality, gender and race as they are lived out at the corporeal or bodily level. The course begins with an introduction to two or three epochal essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson to provide some background to the culture of "Transcendentalism" and indigenous American reworkings of Romantic philosophy before proceeding along a chronological itinerary including Walt Whitman's poem of American social fragmentation and impending Civil War "Song of Myself," Emily Dickinson's visionary re-imagining of female experience and desire in the culture of New England Protestantism, Hart Crane's epic re-presentation of modern American urban experience from the perspective of queer desire, Robert Frost's virtuosic exploration of the bonds and boundaries of community, George Oppen's unsparing late-modernist critique of the ethics of civic speech in the time of the Vietnam War, Robert Lowell's lyric examination of the place of the Puritan imagination in American culture from white settlement to the era of Civil Rights, Adrienne Rich's elaboration of a feminist poetics of culture and her rewriting of patriarchal codes and values, Claudia Rankine's dramatization of the vexed relationship between the African-American subject and ideas of American "dreaming and citizenship in the time of Black Lives Matter, and Terrance Hayes' representation of black life in an anti-back world in the era of Donald Trump.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: ( Literary Studies 1A (ENLI08020) AND Literary Studies 1B (ENLI08021) OR English Literature 1 (ENLI08001) AND Scottish Literature 1 (ENLI08016)) AND ( Literary Studies 2A: English Literature in the World, 1380-1788 (ENLI08024) OR Literary Studies 2B: English Literature in the World, post-1789 (ENLI08025) OR Scottish Literature 2A (ENLI08022) AND Scottish Literature 2B (ENLI08023) OR English Literature 2 (ENLI08003) AND Scottish Literature 2 (ENLI08004))
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs Essential course texts.
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate their understanding of critical issues in relation to the reinvention of cultural identity in American poetry from Walt Whitman to the present day.
  2. Speak and write fluently about these issues in relation to the primary texts and the American socio-historical contexts in which they are embedded.
  3. Apply a range of different speculative and intellectual contexts (such as 'transcendentalism', 'romanticism', 'modernism', 'regionalism', 'postmodernism' and 'post-colonialism') to the primary texts under discussion and evaluate the relation between these movements over the last 180 years.
  4. Reflect constructively on good learning practice.
  5. Articulate how their own thinking about key course issues has developed.
Reading List
Week One: Course Introduction (Emerson and Transcendentalism).

Week Two: The Split Body of America: Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself."

Week Three: "My Life Has Stood A Loaded Gun": Emily Dickinson's Poetics of Self-Emancipation.

Week Four: Queering Urban Space: Hart Crane's The Bridge.

Week Five: Good Fences make Good Neighbours? The Place of the Common in the work of Robert Frost.

Week Six: Flexible Learning Week.

Week Seven: The Ethics of Civic Speech in the Age of Vietnam: George Oppen's "Of Being Numerous."

Week Eight: American History and the Puritan Imagination: The Poetry of Robert Lowell.

Week Nine: Essay Completion Week.

Week Ten: Dark Fields of the Republic: Adrienne Rich's Feminist Poetics of Culture.

Week Eleven: A Poet in the Time of "Black Lives Matter": Claudia Rankine's Citizen.

Week Twelve: The Subject of Blackness in an Anti-Black World: Terrance Hayes' American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin.
Additional Information
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements Numbers are limited, with priority given to students taking degrees involving English or Scottish Literature and Visiting Students placed by the Admissions Office. Students not in these categories need the written approval of the Head of English Literature before enrolling. In the case of excess applications places will be decided by ballot.
Additional Class Delivery Information Seminar: 2 hour(s) per week for 10 weeks; plus attendance at Autonomous Learning Group for 1 hour a week - at time to be arranged
KeywordsENLI10193 Writing Body Politic
Course organiserDr Lee Spinks
Tel: (0131 6)50 3616
Course secretaryMiss Helene Thomsen
Tel: (0131 6)50 3618
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