TEACHER - LECTURER:  7 Interactive Classes

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Shakespeare

To make sense of The Bard, I believe a reader of his works must approach the text much like an actor to make it come alive.

In Elizabethan England, the plays were meant to be heard, performed - not read. The First Folio of his work wasn't ever printed until 8 years after his death.

We will work together to demystify the language. We will study some of the famous soliloquies. Whether he is persuading, seducing and cajoling, or philosophizing, he is always fascinating. I would like to have class members do dramatic readings of some of the scenes. Finally, in addition to the plays, we will study at least 8 of his sonnets.

Robert Frost

This interactive seminar will meet for a six week term, one hour per class. I am more interested in an inclusive group discussion than didactic lecturing.

Robert Frost, in my opinion, is an underread and often misunderstood poet. He doesn't fit easily into any preconceived category, however that is precisely what some people have tried to do with him. He said, "I never dared to be radical when young for fear it would make me conservative when old."

We will work with some of his better known poems as well as some that never seem to get much attention. Here is the list:

Well Known
    "A Tuft of Flowers"
    "Mending Wall"
    "Birches"
    "After Apple Picking"
    "Acquainted with the Night"
    "Desert Places"

Neglected
    "Provide, Provide"
    "The Need of Being Versed in Country Things"
    "For Once, Then, Something"
    "Meeting and Passing"
    "Time Out"
    "The Most of It"
    "Neither Out Far nor In Deep"

If people are interested in reading a biography, I would recommend Robert Frost, A Life by Jay Parini, or A Literary Life Reconsidered by William Pritchard.

Thomas Hardy Poetry

Thomas Hardy's reputation as a man of letter is firmly established by his novels. However, he had told his good friends that he wanted to be remembered first and foremost as a poet. He was writing poetry while writing the novels but his first book of poems wasn't published until 1898 when he was 58 years old.

He is often considered to be the first modern poet. He looks unsentimentally and unflinchingly at the world and reports what he sees.

This poetry does not tell, it shows what it often means in a world indifferent to suffering. His war or anti-war poems are among the best ever written. His love poems, or elegies, written after his wife's Emma's death, are, according to D.H. Lawrence, some of the very best in the English language. During this seminar, we will study and examine some of his greatest work.

Walt Whitman

This lively six week seminar will delve deeply into the life and work of America's beloved poet Walt Whitman. The impact of his writing is still felt today. Whitman found inspiration in the everyday life of America; he saw and wrote of "a teeming nation of nations". He wanted to help Americans understand their past, experience their present, and anticipate their future. "The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem," he said, adding, "Past and present and future are not disjoined but joined."

The first class will focus not only on a biographical sketch of his life, but also a discussion concerning the major forces that influenced him. Whitman wrote, "The greatest poet forms the consistence of what is to be from what has been and is."

A list of the poems that will be discussed will be sent in advance to the program directors so they can disseminate them to the students. We will study a number of smaller poems, including "A Noiseless Patient Spider" and "Miracles". We will also study "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry", "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking", and look at large portions of "Songs of Myself". At least one class will be devoted to the Civil War Poems from Drum Taps. If students wish to read a biography, Walt Whitman, a Cultural Biography by David S. Reynolds is recommended.

Contemporary Poetry

This class will focus mainly on post 1950's poets. We will study several Pulitzer Prize winners, including:

    Robert Lowell
    Mary Oliver
    Richard Wilbur
    Stanley Kunitz

A partial list of other poets will include Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall, Robert Haas, and Galway Kinnell.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Literature Seminar


Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), winner in 1923 of the second annual Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, was a daring, versatile writer whose work includes plays, essays, short stories, songs, and the libretto to an opera that premiered at New York's Metropolitan Opera House to rave reviews.

Millay infused new life into traditional poetic forms, bringing new hope to a generation of youth disillusioned by the political and social upheaval of the First World War. She ventured fearlessly beyond familiar poetic subjects to tackle political injustice, social discrimination, and women's sexuality in her poems and prose. In the 1920's and 30's Millay was considered a spokesperson for personal freedom in America, particularly for women, and we turn to her lines to illuminate the social history of the period and the Bohemian lifestyle she and her friends enjoyed.

In this class we will closely examine much of her poetry, beginning with the masterpiece, "Renascence" which she wrote at age 19.

William Butler Yeats

Born in Dublin in 1865, his poetry would eventually win for him the Nobel Prize in 1923. He along with Lady Augusta Gregory spearheaded the Irish literary revival. Critics have called him the great poet of old age. Most of what are considered his masterpieces he composed after age sixty. We will look at those and some of his earlier poetry and the influences upon him.