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Organization, Regulations, and Courses 2023-24

ENGL 63.28 Rethinking Frost: Robert Frost in a Declining Landscape

In a famous exchange, long-time “frenemies” Wallace Stevens and Robert Frost traded barbs:

“The trouble with you, Robert, is that you write about – subjects.”

“The trouble with you, Wallace, is that you write about – bric-a-brac.”

Neither man was correct, but their characterizations hit a nerve, honing in on the kinds of superficial attributes that may render a first impression lasting . And while no one reads Stevens for his “bric-a-brac” many readers come to Frost for his subjects, which have been misunderstood and sentimentalized over time. It is important to remember, reading him now, that Frost’s New England was no Transcendental retreat, and no rural paradise; poor, depopulated by western expansion on the one hand, and the industrialization of mill towns on the other, it was a landscape of failed and abandoned farmsteads, old people and misfits left to fend on their own, worn-out fields, harsh climate, intellectually moribund and spiritually enervated. Frost came to this “subject” without illusions or bitterness and it is through this subject that we will begin to rethink his poetics and ideas. Using the extensive Frost archives in Rauner, students will be encouraged to undertake primary research alongside their reading of poems and criticism. The course will culminate in a substantial research paper or project, individually designed in consultation with the instructor.

Degree Requirement Attributes

Dist:LIT; WCult:W

Department-Specific Course Categories

Junior Colloquium: Course Group III