Tomorrow in American Literature I we are talking about the shift from neoclassicism to romanticism in U.S. poetry. In talking about the Enlightenment on Monday, I stressed what might be thought of as the sunny side of the Enlightenment, while hinting that there were shadows to be considered as well. I mentioned Toni Morrison’s characterization of the “Age of Enlightenment” as the “Age of Scientific Racism,” and I asked the students to think about whether there were other problems that might ensue as a result of the Enlightenment’s emphasis on humanism.
We’ll start tomorrow with Joel Barlow’s sunny, pastoral, mock-epic “The Hasty Pudding,” before turning to his dark final poem, “Advice to a Raven in Russia,” which describes the horrific scene that is left after one of Napoleon’s battles in Russia. From there, the graveyard school of poetry: Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard” and its American counterpart, Philip Freneau’s “The Indian Burying Ground.”
Then on to Bryant’s “Thanatopsis” (the title of which means “meditation on death”), which I will present as an Americanization of Wordsworth’s poetics, followed by a consideration of Poe’s “Raven” as the example of a Coleridgean approach to poetry. A few words about Poe’s style, which I will defend against Harold Bloom’s scathing criticisms, and then a brief consideration of “William Wilson” to set up the idea of the Doppelganger, which might help the students read Charles Brockden Brown’s Edgar Huntly over the weekend.
And then — if I’ve timed everything correctly — a bit of fun stuff via video. Here’s a hint: