Study Guide



(1) Short, Fact-Based / ID questions—10 total @ 2 points each = 20%—take 10 minutes

  • What poetic school / movement is X associated with (where X is a figure we’ve discussed in relation to some school / movement)?
  • Identify the author of Y (where Y is a quote over four lines and is an author we discussed in class)?
  • Who wrote “Z” (where “Z” is the title of a poem we discussed in class)?
  • In what role does Sharon Olds cast Whitman?
  • Why does Whitman shake in Sherman Alexie’s “Defending Walt Whitman”?
  • Name a central symbol in Whitman’s elegy for Lincoln.

(2) Short Answer (3-5 sentences) questions—6 total @ 5 points each = 30%—take 30 minutes.  You will have some choice in the matter (8 options)

  • Define New World Poetry.
  • Describe one way in which the concept of the transnational has manifested itself in the authors we’ve read this semester.
  • Discuss the following terms in relation to one another: Modernism, Modernization, and Modernity
  • Offer a capsule summary of Pollak’s (or some other critic’s) argument about Whitman.

(3) Long Answer (3-5 paragraphs)—2 total @ 25 points each = 50%—take 40 minutes (approximately 20 minutes each).

  • Select two of the following four poems / excerpts. First, identify the author and the text. Then, please offer a close reading of this poem—paying close attention to its form as well as content—within the context of how this poem / excerpt fits in with the course’s main themes, concerns and concepts. Pay particular attention to questions of influence.  If it is Whitman, how does the poem help us think about later poems; if it is a later poet, how does it respond to / complicate / extend / qualify / celebrate / echo Whitman).  Strive for 3-5 paragraphs for this answer.
  • Some examples: “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life”; “Sunflower Sutra”; a section from Oppen’s “Of Being Numerous,” “Nurse Whitman,” a section from The Connection, “Spring and All,” “Harvest Song,” a poem or two from Montage, “I Explain Some Things,” I, Too, Sing America,” etc.

(4) Bonus Question(s)—5  points


Core Concepts:

  • Modernism / Modernization / Modernity
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • Transnational
  • “Tranquilized 50s”
  • New World Poetry
  • Poetic Schools
  • Objectivist poets / poetics
  • Beats
  • New York School
  • San Francisco Renaissance
    • Serial Form (in Oppen and Hughes)
    • Crisis / Recovery
    • Utopia / Elegy
    • Loving is so short/ Forgetting is so long
    • Enabling / Disabling

Central Topics:

  • Whitman and Native American poetry and poetics

Whitman and th

  • e question of women / gender
  • Whitman and African Americans
  • Varieties of Influence:
  • Form-Based
  • Content-Based
  • Poets revisiting, reinventing and echoing central Whitmanian problems and themes
  • Direct address
    • Whitman and Latin American poets
    • Whitman as poet of gay identity / breaking down borders of sexuality
    • Whitman and Socialism / the Worker
    • Whitman as Nationalist
    • Whitman and the Civil War
    • Whitman in Age
    • Whitman after 9/11: Spahr, C.K. Williams

Poets Most Discussed:

  • Walt Whitman
  • T.S. Eliot
  • William Carlos Williams
  • Hart Crane
  • Michael Gold
  • Langston Hughes
  • Jean Toomer
  • Pablo Neruda
  • Allen Ginsberg
  • Frank O’Hara
  • Robert Duncan
  • Jack Spicer
  • George Oppen
  • Sherman Alexie
  • Simon Ortiz
  • Martin Espada
  • Sharon Olds
  • Juliana Spahr
  • C.K. Williams

Critics / Prose:

  • Vivian Pollak
  • June Jordan
  • Maurice Kenny
  • James Nolan
  • Joseph Bruchac