Course Syllabus

  Course Syllabus & Information



Harvard Extension School: ENGL E-182f (CRN 24601)

Spring 2016

Half-Term: January 25-March 11


Instructor: Elisa New PhD, Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature, Harvard University


Teaching Assistant/Section Leader: Carra Glatt (


Online Section: Tuesdays 7:00 – 8:00


Online Office Hours: Tuesdays 8:00-10:00 or by appointment


This course, the third installment of the multi-part Poetry in America series, explores the poetry of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most distinctive and prolific poets. While Dickinson wrote nearly 2,000 poems during her lifetime, she chose never to publish, opting instead to revisit and revise her works throughout her lifetime. Keeping this dynamic of self-revision in mind, we will consider a number of Dickinson’s poems—many seemingly in tension with one another—concerned with Nature, Art, the Self, and Darkness. We will travel to the Dickinson Collection at Harvard's Houghton Library, and to Amherst, Massachusetts, paying a visit to the house in which the poet lived and wrote until her death in 1886. Distinguished guests for this module include NBA athlete Jason Collins, dancers Damian Woetzel and Charles “Lil Buck” Riley, and President and CEO of the New America Foundation Anne Marie Slaughter, among others.

Led by Harvard Professor Elisa New, Poetry in America surveys nearly 400 years of American poetry. Through video lectures, archival images and texts, expeditions to historic sites, interpretive seminars with large and small groups, interviews with poets and scholars, and conversations about poems with distinguished Americans, Poetry in America embarks on a journey through the literature of a nation. Distinguished guests, including President Bill Clinton, Elena Kagan, Henry Louis Gates, Eve Ensler, John McCain, Andrea Mitchell, Michael Pollan, Drew Faust, Tony Kushner, and Nas, among others, bring fresh perspectives to the study of American Poetry.



Section is a required component of this class. If, however, you live in a time zone that would make it impossible for you to attend our virtual sections, e-mail Carra at by the end of the first week of class to discuss alternative arrangements.




Your grade in this course will be determined on the basis of one 5-7 page paper, a take-home, essay-based final exam, and brief (~ 300 word) weekly postings to the course website. Your written work will be evaluated on the following qualities:


  1. Evidence of close attention to the language, structure, and other formal elements of the poems

  2. Strength of argument

  3. Clarity of prose


In lieu of the paper and final exam, any graduate students enrolled in the course will be asked to write a single 10-12 page paper on a relevant topic of the student's choosing.



HES Plagiarism Policies


You are responsible for understanding Harvard Extension School policies on academic integrity ( and how to use sources responsibly. Not knowing the rules, misunderstanding the rules, running out of time, submitting "the wrong draft", or being overwhelmed with multiple demands are not acceptable excuses. There are no excuses for failure to uphold academic integrity. To support your learning about academic citation rules, please visit the Harvard Extension School Tips to Avoid Plagiarism (, where you'll find links to the Harvard Guide to Using Sources and two, free, online 15-minute tutorials to test your knowledge of academic citation policy. The tutorials are anonymous open-learning tools.


Note on Accessibility:


The Extension School is committed to providing an accessible academic community. The Disability Services Office offers a variety of accommodations and services to students with documented disabilities. Please more information.



SYLLABUS (subject to change)

Week 1: Introduction to Poetry in America: Dickinson-- January 25-January 29

Readings: No assigned reading.

Week 2: Introduction to Dickinson's Life and Poetry – February 1 – February 5

Note: Section begins THIS WEEK. Each section will discuss materials from the previous week; at our first section, we will be discussing the introductory materials. We will discuss the poems from Week 2 at our February 9th meeting


"Split the lark and you'll find the music" (F905)

"Remorse is memory awake" (F781A) 

"'Hope' is the thing with feathers" (F314)

"After great pain, a formal feeling comes" (F372)

"A bird came down the walk" (F359)

"Pain expands the time" (F833)

"My life had stood a loaded gun" (F764)

"I dwell in possibility" (F466)

"A solemn thing it was I said" (F307)

"This world is not conclusion" (F373)

"I never lost as much but twice" (F39)

"My faith is larger than the hills" (F489)

"A clock stopped" (F259)

Week 3: Dickinson and Nature-- February 8-12


"A narrow fellow in the grass" (F1096)

"A bird came down the walk" (F359)

"There's a certain slant of light" (F320)

"A spider sewed at night" (F1163)

"How the old mountains drip with sunset" (F327)

"Bring me the sunset in a cup" (F140)

"There came a wind like a bugle" (F1618)

"I think that the root of the wind is water" (F1295)

"It sifts from leaden sieves" (F291)

"Apparently with no surprise" (F1668), aka "The Blonde Assassin"

"The wind begun to rock the grass" (F796), aka "The wind begun to knead the grass"

Week 4: Dickinson and the Psyche– February 15-19

"On a columnar self" (F740)

"A solemn thing it was said" (F307)

"I breathed enough to take the trick" (F308)

"He put the belt around my life" (F330)

"What soft cherubic creatures" (F675)

"Much madness is divinest sense" (F620)

"I'm nobody! Who are you" (F260)

"I am alive I guess" (F605)

"We grow accustomed to the dark" (F428)

"Pain expands the time" (F833)

"'Hope' is the thing with feathers" (F314)

Week 5: Dickinson and the Arts-- February 22-26

Essay (5-7 pages) due 2/27


"I dwell in possibility" (F466)

"This was a Poet" (F446)

"The poets light but lamps" (F930)

"Your thoughts dont have words every day" (F1476)

"I cannot dance opon my toes" (F381)

"They shut me up in prose" (F445)

"I would not paint a picture" (F348)

Week 6: Conclusion – Feb 29 – March 4

Week 7: March 7-11

Take-home final distributed

March 8th: Review session

March 9th: Final posted to Canvas

March 11th: Exam handed in/ Grad Student paper due

Course Summary:

Date Details