English 165 - Spring, 2019

Topics in Poetry

    Topic: The Dream Songs. An in-depth look into John Berryman's infamous series of poems

Class Information

Instructor: Wenderoth, Joe
CRN: 71928
Time: MWF 12:10-1:00
Location: 192 Young


    This course will investigate John Berryman’s “The Dream Songs.” The poems of The Dream Songs will be considered in terms of their relationship to Walt Whitman’s notion of Song, and to Whitman's poem, “Song Of Myself." The goal of the course is to develop an understanding of the space wherein Poetry and Song (as Whitman formulated it) might merge and/or diverge, and then to articulate a particular history of that space in 20th century American poetry, at least insofar as Berryman’s “Dream Songs” allow for it. In articulating this history, we will produce and pursue questions relevant to readers and writers of Contemporary American poetry, such as: what hopes, if any, do poems nowadays evidence? are poems sung by, at, or for the subject they implicitly concern? are poems like songs in that they must take place? do poems thus necessitate and prefigure populations? and is it possible for poetry to be “democratic” (again, using Whitman’s definition of this term)?


    Occasional reader's responses: 20%
    small essay: 15%
    large essay: 30%
    final exam: 35%


    The Dream Songs, John Berryman