Instructor: Basnet MWF 9:05 AM – 10:00 AM
What counts as evidence—fact, witness, experience, history? What are the techniques and strategies of presenting evidence—reportage, exposé, curation, erasure? How does evidence persuade us—by conveying information objectively or by moving us emotionally? In this course, these three questions about content, method, and function, respectively, of documentary expression will guide our reading of American poetry that uses documentary methods to address a social crisis. Documentary poetry uses “non-poetic” materials such as news articles, photographs and maps, legal texts, etc., and in doing so it invites us to interrogate, comment, and interpret the information communicated by these documents. Thus, studying documentary poetry has two major advantages: first, we become better at analyzing how primary sources are used; second, we can begin to ask this essential question about poetry—what makes poetry “poetic”? We will begin this course with the documentary movement of 1930s, continue with the protest poetry of 1960s and 1970s, and end with cultural epics of the 21st century.