Course overview

“One of the most outrageous poems in American literature”: that’s one way to describe Walt Whitman’s 52-part poem “Song of Myself”. Abounding in energy, embracing all aspects of life, including the human body, great landscapes and the joys and pains of life, the poem scandalised many British readers in the 1860s and liberated others from the constraints of Victorian morality. Whitman is sure to challenge you to re-examine your assumptions about the world and about poetry itself. Each week we will read about five pages, and in our Zoom session discuss the features of the reading and your responses, sharing views in a friendly community. Podcasts explaining each section supplement your experience of the poem. No previous experience with literature is necessary, only a willingness to set out on this epic journey.

Course description

Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” (1855) will pull you into a world of energetic engagement with all life, from weeds to wild animals to the stars above, sharing the poet’s intimacy with the human body, and human suffering, and the excitement of street life and country rambles.

The poem is unlike any other you have read, and has had a huge influence both on Victorian readers and on modern poetry. Whitman aims to challenge you, and the course invites you to examine and share the way you have been moved, or even repelled, by the readings.

The twelve-week course consists of:

- Weekly readings, of about five pages

- Supplemental podcasts for each of the fifty-two sections

- Weekly ninety-minute Zoom sessions to share responses in a friendly community of fellow-readers

- Discussions on the Canvas platform before and after each Zoom session to share further thoughts

Most of Whitman’s poetry is clear and colloquial, though you may find some parts difficult to follow – but that’s why we come together to help each other. By the end of the course you will not only have had the experience of engaging with this sumptuous poem and sharing your response, but you will understand more about America just before the Civil War, and will have sharpened your skills in reading great poetry.

What financial support is available?

We don't want anything to stand in your way when it comes to bringing Adult learning within reach so if you need anything to support you to achieve your goals then speak to one of our education experts during your enrolment journey. Most of our courses are government funded but if you don't qualify or need alternative financial help to access them then let us know.

What other support is available?

All of our digital content, teaching and learning activities and assessments are designed to be accessible so if you need any additional support you can discuss this with the education experts during your enrolment journey and we will do all we can to make sure you have optimal access.

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