English 2013: Introduction to American Literature
Assignment Twelve-- A Celebration of Love

Li-young Lee

The thematic focus of the literature that we are examining in assignments nine through twelve is love. In this twelfth assignbment the readings focus on literature that celebrates the power of love.

This twelfth assignment asks you to read two poems written by a seventeenth-century poet – Anne Bradstreet –, two poems written by a nineteenth-century poets – Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson –, and a poem written by a twentieth-century poet – Li-young Lee.

This week's readings present romantic love as a transforming power, a potent force that deeply affects individuals and conditions their interaction with the world.

nne Bradstreet wrote on many subjects, but the poems she wrote about her relationship with her husband evoke an intense marital love. In these two poems -- "To My Dear and Loving Husband" and "A Letter to Her Husband Absent upon Public Employment" -- she expresses her sense of physical and spiritual union with her husband.

Edgar Allan Poe's approach to love is idealistic and extreme. For Poe love is a drug that elevates people beyond the ordinary world of experienced reality. In both of the works we read this week, Poe shows love challenging the limitations of human mortality. In "Annabel Lee" the poem's narrator refuses to admit the possibility of love's demise. In "The Raven" Poe imagines a fantasy in which the power of love is so great that it can reincarnate a deceased loved one. For additional information read the Wikipedia Poe Page.

mily Dickinson's poem "Wild nights – Wild nights" suggests that passionate love can be an Edenic experience that can provide a secure escape from the troubling "winds" of life. Out text includes a reprint of the manuscript page of this poem Vol. I (p, 1255).
Li-young Lee's poem "The Room and Everything in It" suggests that love is such a powerful experience that the mere memory of it can help us meet "hard days" in our future. The poem connects love with the essentials of existence and suggests in its final lines that it somehow mysteriously a force that stands against death itself.
  • You can view Li-Young Lee introducing and reading the poem at this YouTube page.