ENGD59: American Poetry (Elizabeth Bishop)

ENGD59: American Poetry (Elizabeth Bishop)



Course Name: Topics in American Poetry -- Elizabeth Bishop

Instructor: Prof. Andrew Dubois

Course Description: “A poet’s poet’s poet.” So the great John Ashbery described his great progenitor Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979), the subject of our seminar. We are going to read through the oeuvre of this quietly awe-inducing writer, encountering her poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, as well as some of the writers important to her and about whom she wrote with such nonchalant brilliance (Gerard Manley Hopkins, Marianne Moore, and Edgar Allen Poe, for instance). Perhaps the reticence and emotional tact of this life-loving yet life-troubled woman will seem strange and even unnerving to we who exist in a histrionic, imbalanced, and self-promoting milieu, but I trust that in her formal acuity, psychological depth, unostentatious wit, and basic human decency, we might find ourselves enthralled, enamored, enriched, perhaps maybe even chastened, and certainly ever bettered. A kind of virtual door allowing free but careful congress between High Modernism and Postmodernity; between life’s pleasures and pains; between Nova Scotia, Boston, Brazil, and back; between the country and the city; between the abstract and concrete; between youth and youth’s cessation; between inward disappointment and outward joyousness; between the existentially and spiritually wracking boundary separating life from death: Bishop is a poet no serious reader could consider with less than patient gratitude and humble respect.

Course Features: Course work will consist of three short essays and plenty of reading. The text will be the Library of America Elizabeth Bishop: Poetry, Prose, and Letters, which contains all of her writing and is a true bargain for all it contains. Preferably it should be procured prior to the start of class from the following website: https://www.loa.org/books/277-poems-prose-letters (where first-time buyers get a discount); other online sellers like amazon and abebooks.com should also have it. Don’t delay — our days pass fast.

“The art of losing isn’t hard to master,” she tells us. The art of gaining entrée to the art of Elizabeth Bishop is as easy as joining this class.

Learn more about Prof. Dubois's teaching and research, as well as how to contact him with any questions.

Pictured above: A painting by the poet.


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