The poet... doth grow in effect another nature, in making things either better than nature brings forth, or quite anew. —Sidney
In 1770, English painter George Stubbs painted a painting of a moose standing in front of a rocky crag. All wrong—moose live in the swamp. But since the only moose that Stubbs had ever seen had been shipped from North America, he had falsely imagined the sublimity of its habitat. The twentieth-century American poet Robert Duncan brings up Stubbs’ moose in “Poetry, A Natural Thing” to rehearse a longstanding opposition between poetry and nature, and undercut that opposition a little bit. He suggests that the out-of-place moose—a “picture apt for the mind,” he calls it—is not only a perfect figure for the pure and delightful inventiveness of poetry, but also for its weird pathos. In this course, we’ll set poems and theories of poetry alongside ideas of nature to enrich our understanding of both. Are nature and/or poetry wild, real, objective, social, inner, autonomous, and/or other? To formulate your own opinion, you’ll write a series of close readings leading up to a long research paper built around a poem of your choice.
Note: Enrollment in this course is restricted to declared English majors, with Junior or Senior standing.