Your reading will begin with and center on the poems. Read them, re-read them, memorize them. In your first or second reading, you will probably want to consult a dictionary to make sure you’re understanding what the poem says.
By your fifth or sixth reading, you may be want to deepen your understanding of the poem with additional context, whether literary, historical, or critical. The resources below will help you find high-quality material.
RESOURCES TO HELP YOU READ CLOSELY
Many libraries will have this dictionary in print or via institutional subscription.
The OED is the authoritative historical dictionary for the English language: word entries includes extensive etymologies, definitions past and present, and quotations demonstrating how a word has been used over time. Additional features of the online edition include a Timeline, Historical Thesaurus, and a “Categories” tool that allows you to browse words by subject, usage, region, or origin.
An excellent dictionary that offers some content free online, including etymology and usage notes. To find a print edition in a library near you, try WorldCat.
FOR LITERARY TERMS AND GENRES:
- RPO Glossary
- Academy of American Poets (poets.org) “forms & techniques”
- Poetry Foundation browse poems by poetic terms (select “poetic terms” in the left menu)
- M.H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms
RESOURCES FOR EXPANDING WHAT YOU’VE READ: FINDING MORE POEMS, ONLINE OR IN YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY
There are several wonderful web portals dedicated to poetry and also poetry audio:
To find poetry (or any materials) in a library near you, try WorldCat. If you are outside of the United States, inquire at your local library about a union catalog that might be more helpful in locating resources near you.
To find full text online, try one of these sites:
RESOURCES TO HELP YOU UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT OF WHAT YOU READ
The Poetry Foundation has excellent biographies for many of the poets assigned in this course. Use the search box to find the poet you’re interested in.
The DPLA, the Library of Congress, and many other libraries and institutions have web tools for exploring particular topic. Many feature digitized content. When you explore the web for portals like these, always look for an “about” page that explains who publishes and maintains the website.
Harvard in the 17th and 18th Centuries, a Harvard University Archives research guide, offers background introductions with links to subject-based bibliographies, digitized materials, and much more.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a wonderful and freely available online resource for the history of thought.
If you’re looking for an introduction or an overview in a library catalog, try adding one of these words to a broad keyword search: encyclopedias, handbooks,companion, introduction, overview, casebook.
RESOURCES FOR FINDING OTHER SCHOLARS’ READINGS
In a library catalog, add “criticism and interpretation” to your keyword search to see scholarly criticism about that topic. For example, HERE is criticism and interpretation about Walt Whitman.
There’s nothing like a good recommendation. Karen Karbiener is one of the scholars Professor New consults in this module: you might start by searching WorldCat for books by Karen Karbiener. Once you find a good book or article, look at the notes and bibliography to find out about other criticism on the same and similar topics.
For later poetry (starting with Walt Whitman), the Modern American Poetry site maintained by Cary Nelson and Bartholomew Brinkman at the University of Illinois includes excerpts from major criticism.
RESOURCES FOR WALT WHITMAN
For a comprehensive resource on Whitman's life and poetry, we recommend the Walt Whitman Archive.
For more on Whitman's historical and cultural context, we recommend the following books:
Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography, by David Reynolds
Walt Whitman: A Life, by Justin Kaplan
A complete, full-text, free online edition of Leaves of Grass (the 1855 edition) is available HERE.
For more of Whitman's work, both poetry and prose, we recommend Leaves of Grass and Other Writings (Norton Critical Edition).
Compiled by Odile Harter, Harvard University, 2013.
Updated by Leah Reis-Dennis, HarvardX, 2014.