Whew!

The first week of the semester certainly knocked the wind out of my Bach blogging. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to resume in the next day or two. I've met all three of my classes & each seems fine in its own way. I'm doing three preps for the first time in twenty years this term -- being the good soldier for the department -- with one small upper-division seminar (Modern Poetry), one medium-sized upper-division survey (Imagining Science), and one huge lower-division survey (The Literature of American Popular Music). I love the material I'm teaching in each class, but the poetry seminar is clearly going to be the sweet spot each week. It's my only class on Mondays & Wednesdays & so far the students have been both lovely & smart. I'm using a class weblog on which students are required to post three seminar "preparations" over the course of the semester that will serve as the basis for part of our discussion on that day, with everyone commenting on the post. That student then leads part of the class discussion for his or her assigned day. This system will really get up & running next week, but we had our first go at it today & it worked just fine. In the Modern Poetry class today I spent a good deal of time trying to talk about what we mean by "modernism" & I contrasted it to literary romanticism using Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality. . ." (as well as the famous denunciation of cities from the Preface to Lyrical Ballads) & Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." I focused on Wordsworth's emphasis on the natural world & on childhood versus Whitman's emphasis on the city and adulthood. We then talked about several of Whitman's shorter poems. I think I'm going to like using Cary Nelson's anthology, Modern American Poetry, but I'm not crazy about the Whitman selections. The short poems are fine, but not having several chunks of "Song of Myself" is a handicap; I'd also rather have "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" than "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking," which is a great poem, but not as pedagogically useful, for my purposes at least, as the more mystical & philosophical "Cradle." Fortunately, Wordsworth's "Ode," the "Preface to Lyrical Ballads," & "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry are available online through Bartleby.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

1 thought on “Whew!”

  1. oh to be young again and in that seminar. we had in dr. shockley’s seminar in 1958 or 59 just six students. how we worked! other than in a seminar in constitutional law with dr sam mcalister–also 6 students–grad students–i’ve never had so much joy in work, my work and the other’s work. the shockley seminar was poe & hawthorne. ed mycue

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