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ENG150 - Poetry - Lecture Notes.docx

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William Robins

ENG150Y1 – LECTURE NOTES Monday, March 25, 2013 Poetry – Whitman’s “Song of Myself” – Lecture 1 Whitman:  Whitman’s contemporaries thought he was weird  Whitman represented himself as a New Yorker  Was a carpenter  Published his own poetry  Readers thought he was disoriented; his writing anyway  Whitman writes a song about himself; like Dante  No standard metre or rhyme, no structure  Not common speech  Draws a link between the reader and the writer when using pronouns such as “I” and “you”  Says we’re all interconnected  Repeats words like “loafe” which gives the poem a loose structure  The form can be confusing o Like line 5; why are the dots, the ellipses? o Perhaps it’s to pause and reflect  Uses free verse; not as popular as it is now back in his time  Others saw him as a controversial man o It seemed to have neither pattern nor decorum o Muck of abomination o Unacquainted with art o Whitman wanted to arouse this sort of reaction; he went so far as to include his worst reviews o He wanted to agitate and he succeeded  The form mirrors its content because both are loose, free, amoral, disgusting  Poems lots of characters like the reader, the woman who watches men bathe, the slave, the suicide person, etc..  No one is seen as vile  Fulfills natural hunger  Whitman is uninterested in the afterlife; heaven or hell; the focus is on this world  Does not divide the holy with the filthy o Divine I am inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touched from Mysticism of the mundane:  Focuses on cosmic sympathy on the lowest thing  Example: poem 5 o Echo of the gospels  The vision moves down in the chain of being  Nothing is profane Praise of Life and Death:  Admires life  Even death connects us  Example: poem 6 o Does not deny death but suggests that life is recycled, moves elsewhere  The poem is affirmative The way of affirmation:  Mystical affirmation of life, not its ascetic negation  Affirms the goodness of the world Historical Context:  Poem was written in 1865, on the brink of war  South wants to keep slavery, the north wants to abolish it  Believed in western expansion and manifest destiny = philosophy in which settlers would expand  Poem 24 declares primal evil in democracy  Democratic vs. wiggams  Whitman is a democratic believes in expansion and abolishment  The poem has this wild pluralistic form because it emulates this history; shows that politics then were complicated  Poem 33 o Swift wind! Space! My sould! Now I kni t is true what I guessed at; what I guessed when I loafed on the grass, what I guessed while I lay alone in my bed and again as I waled the beach under the pailing stars of the morning o Expansion to the point of cosmic movement o Fragments reflects speed o Body is amplified o There is a connection between individual and the universe; socialism? Similarities to Dante:  Both are about justice  In the Inferno, there is judgment, crimes, confession, interpersonal elements and the like  This poem suggests that social relationships are juvenile; on the cusp of new democratic age  Whitman doesn’t look to religion and grace, his solution is America; redeems the old world with expansion and energy of the new The organizing principles:  The self  America o The united states are essentially the greatest poem o Here at last is something in the doings of man that corresponds with the broadcast doings of the day and night o Here is not merely a nation but a teeming nation of nations o A myth that Americans existed in early civilization o Suggests that America is not a place but an idea or a dream  The material and the immaterial are blended in the poem, just like man and the cosmos  A culture of affirmation; the pursuit of happiness; relies on territory, unlimited regions to go into and develop Influences of Whitman:  Influenced Bob Dylan  Whitman is the new world  Whitman represents a view of America that was noble, but no longer matches the view with people today Wednesday, March 27, 2013 Poetry – Rimbaud’s “Drunken Boat” – Lecture 2 Historical Context of Rimbaud and the Avant-gardes:  About breaking tradition  Is a modern poet  Shows the artists as a social radical and an outlaw  No longer a courtly figure trying to appeal to the aristocracy  He is an avant-garde o In 1410, the term was used to refer to the foremost part of the army, the vanguard; a military term o In 1910, the term became referred to the pioneers or innovators in any art in any period, first used in England this way, but the term was present in France long before  The artists declare themselves as avant-gardes, self-consciously  Olinde roderigues: o The power of the arts is the most immediate and thes fastest o We have weapons of all sorts and spread new ideas among people o We popularize them by means of poetry and music o Influence exerts itself  Don’t abide by social rules  Writing alongside the rethlutionthies and the lower class peoples  The avant-gardes in the 19 and 20 centuries were not focused on religion and the royalty, but on aesthetic sensation and what they mean; there were precise descriptions of what being in the world was like o Seeing art as existing for art’s sake  Art does not have the responsibilities from the social world  Art gives pleasure and that’s it  This idea was radical during Rimbaud’s time  Even different typographies of different fonts and line lengths were considered radical like Mallarme’s “Un Coup de Des” in 1897  Wandering favour and attention  Both translations of the p
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