Freshman Seminar 60m. The Poetry of Elizabeth Bishop and Sylvia Plath

Instructor: Peter Sacks
Terms: Spring Term

Wednesdays 3-5pm | Location: Sever 104

Open to freshman students only.

This seminar studies in detail the poetry and prose of two of the most significant American poets of the mid- to late Twentieth Century, Elizabeth Bishop and Sylvia Plath.  While the intention will be to gain some general knowledge of lyric poetry, readings will focus closely on the works of these two quite different poets.  We shall examine their entire poetic oeuvres while also reading selections of their prose writings (fiction, letters).  Issues of self-presentation, expatriation, loss, vocation, memory, gender and sexuality, as well as techniques of description and expression – these will recur throughout the readings.  Other poets may be added for context.  While acknowledging the differences between the principal poets (for example the oblique self-portraiture of Bishop as opposed to the more direct “confessional” style of Plath), we shall also seek common motifs both in their situations as writers and in their achieved poems.

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