Carl Sandburg Questions for English 222 American Literature, CSU Fullerton

E222 CARL SANDBURG QUESTIONS, CSU FULLERTON

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CARL SANDBURG

"Chicago" (Norton Vol. D 279-80); "Fog" (Vol. D 280); "Cool Tombs" (Vol. D 280-81); "Grass" (Vol. D 281).

"Chicago" (Norton Vol. D 279-80)

1. In "Chicago," how does Sandburg build up a representation of the bustling Midwestern city -- what images, sounds, people, and activities does he convey as central to the ongoing meaning of the place? Do they all add up to a unified picture, or does the poem's task lie elsewhere? Explain.

2. How is the treatment accorded the great city in Sandburg's "Chicago" similar to Walt Whitman's treatment of his landscapes in Leaves of Grass or "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd"? But how is Sandburg's description of Chicago also different from Whitman's landscapes generally? How, for example, does Sandburg turn the poem into something like an argument in defense of Chicago, a reply to those who might look down on the city in comparison to the great cities of the eastern United States?

"Fog" (Norton Vol. D 280)

3. In "Fog," why do you think Sandburg describes the coming-on of the fog as being like the stealthy walk, perch and attitude of a cat? In using such a metaphor, what might the poet be suggesting about the impact of fog on us, on our perceptions and our daily lives?

"Cool Tombs" (Norton Vol. D 280-81)

4. Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Pocahontas, nameless urban masses, and lovers all figure in Sandburg's poem "Cool Tombs." In the end, what do they have in common? By offering us a perspective on death, what is this poem suggesting about how to live?

"Grass" (Norton Vol. D 281).

5. What is the "work" of the grass at the battle sites the speaker of Sandburg's poem "Grass" mentions -- Austerlitz and Waterloo from the Napoleonic Era, Gettysburg from the American Civil War, Ypres and Verdun from World War I? Why is the natural process mentioned in this poem so necessary to human life -- what mental and emotional process does it imply and regard as vital to getting on with life?