Nature Poetry Before + After Darwin
Course No. LLC 301X Credits: 3.0
Faculty Timothy Geaghan
In a notebook entry dated in the 1940s, Robert Frost wrote, “You have to be careful with the word natural—with all words in fact. You have to play the words close to the realities.” So what are the “realities” of the natural world? Given that human beings are, after Darwin, connected to all living things, can we ever get far enough outside of ourselves to understand the “real,” concrete world of nature? Or are we human beings simply creating, through language, a symbolic world and calling it nature? Is the act of constructing a world using language in order to understand ourselves and other things what makes us natural—is at the root of what we call “human nature”? In exploring those questions, this seminar will look at poetry before and after Darwin in an attempt to understand what effects natural science has had on poetic depictions of the natural world from the 1830s to the 1930s. The focus of the course will tilt toward poetic renderings of the natural world after Darwin, and in particular the most well-known American “nature poet” of the 20th century, Robert Frost. Frost grappled with many scientific ideas, both in and out of his poetry, and turned around the question of how science has affected poetry to ask, how does poetry help us understand science? May be applied as a Humanities/Cultural Studies elective or as a writing-intensive elective.
Gary D. Sampson
Professor of Art + Design History/Chair of Liberal Arts
Gary Sampson teaches art and design history and theory at the Institute. He is also adjunct in art history and...more
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