Oppen and Whitman: Paper Proposal

My paper will address the Whitmanian echoes in George Oppen’s poetry. I will explore how Oppen engages with, but ultimately distances himself from Whitman by not manufacturing a glorious recovery. I hope to make my argument by comparing “Song of Myself” to “Of Being Numerous”.

The relationship between Oppen and Whitman is important because of their similarity in form but differences in interaction with the world. Oppen comments directly on the things he sees in the world around him, but does not provide the recovery that Whitman is known for. In “Song of Myself” there is a sense that the center cannot hold, but Whitman always seems to have an underlying hope in recovery. I’m excited to delve into Oppen’s poetry more thoroughly and draw a more clear connection between him and Whitman.

My guiding questions will be: How do Whitman and Oppen each use the serial form of poetry to explore and comment on the world around them? How do their differences in poetics reveal their outlook on interaction with the world? I hope to learn more about the form of their poetics and figure out why they both found this form useful for their different purposes.

During peer revision, my group suggested that I need to choose my sources carefully. Dana pointed out that my claims about form and authorial intent will need to be well documented before I can make my own conclusions. I realize that the only using two poems may be problematic for the length of the paper, but I am hoping that my argument will be supplemented by including the aspect of the time period of the authors. It was also brought to my attention that my own voice will have to somehow emerge as the strongest in the paper, which will be hard to do considering the magnitude of this connection. I’m hoping to “join the conversation” with the critics that I have found. I would love any more suggestions about making my paper more well rounded–or any sources you may come across that would be helpful.

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One Response to Oppen and Whitman: Paper Proposal

  1. Katie Lastrapes says:

    I’ve been trying to post this since yesterday, but something isn’t working…

    Jenny, I really like your paper idea, and I enjoyed reading your draft in class the other day. I just want to reiterate some of the points we talked about because we got a little rushed at the end of our discussion. Like I said in class, I think your paper would benefit from a more clear and narrowed down thesis. That would certainly help with the organization of your paper. Also, in each individual paragraph, you should limit the amount of secondary criticism that you introduce in each paragraph. You have a lot of terrific ideas in your paper, but I think you’re having trouble finding your voice. If you limit the amount of ideas in each paragraph, they will be more focused and clear, and better relatable back to your thesis. Also, try to work in some transition sentences at the beginnings and ends of your paragraph. It will help you to maintain your focus as you move throughout your ideas in your paper. It would also help the flow of your ideas if you used more textual examples. Try if you can, to work in the examples seamlessly into the paragraph to give evidence of the points you are making. It will help your overall argument achieve more clarity.

    I think there is a lot to be explored concerning the serial poetic form. I think you can certainly draw some connections between the overall form of the poem and with the larger questions that are guiding you through your paper. But I think the emphasis in your paper should be placed on how each poet achieves—or not—a recovery. Or like we talked about the other day, Whitman’s national healing contrasted with Oppen’s more personal attempt at healing. I think the healing question is extremely interesting. Overall, I love the idea you are exploring and I think your paper will be great!!!

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