Craig White's Literature Courses

American Renaissance & American Romanticism

Styles of Three American Renaissance Poets compared:

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49)

Walt Whitman (1819-92)

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Poe Style Sheet

Whitman Style Sheet

Dickinson Style Sheet

Style means both technique & genre on one hand, and content / subject matter on the otherboth the how and what that make a writer's style partly unique to themselves but also true to their moment in history or their circumstances.

During the American Renaissance or antebellum era, three of the USA's greatest lyric poets developed unique personal styles that can be compared to each other in terms of their appeals to readers and scholars.

category / author



formal verse or free verse? most formal and musical or lyrical:
traditional or fixed verse forms
like the sonnet, ballad, etc.
formal base (e.g. ballad or hymn stanzas)
but informal, free verse, modern variations
(improvised punctuation, line shifts, half-rhymes or off-rhymes)
least formal > free verse
(but other poetic structures persist, esp. anaphora / parallelism & catalog; also alliterationmetaphors, other figures of speech)
characteristic contents
or subject matter
gothic, desire-loss, long ago & far away, exotic or oriental gothic, desire-loss, but domestic settings (instead of exotic) become universally meaningful; everyday encounters with death become universal metaphors everyday, urban American life becomes poetic subject; the American frontier and expanding nation; some representation of multicultural figures
Romanticism or Realism? textbook or formula Romanticism: escapism to "anything but here and now" (a reader of Poe would never guess Poe lived in American cities); use of Romantic rhetoric, esp. language of extremes Romanticism + American Transcendentalism
Dickinson not part of Transcendentalist movement but shares its interest in spiritual or mystical dimensions of everyday life. Everyday household or natural images may be realistic, but they become symbols of transcendent or mystical meaning
Whitman the most realistic of Romantic poets: attention to city life, details of human existence, inclusion of risque or unseemly subjects;
but also Romantic love of nature, Transcendentalist mysticism or union, romance-narrative quests for union or transcendence.
appeals to readers, scholars musicality, theatricality, formal verse easy to memorize; mystique of Poe-legend Wrote app. 1800 lyric poems, each extraordinary or unique; elusiveness, ambiguity, delicacy, surprise- or shock-value as aesthetic value. Makes common subjects worthy of poetic wonder and beauty; courageous exploration of forbidden subjects; reaches out to reader, forces identification; enormous influence on later poets by "freeing verse" and revolutionizing subject matter of poetry

Poems by each poet studied in American Renaissance:

Poe (Poe Style Sheet)


"Sonnet—To Science"

The Raven

"Annabel Lee"

"The City in the Sea"

Dickinson (Dickinson Style Sheet)

[Wild Nights]

[A Bird Came Down the Walk]

[I felt a funeral in my brain] 

[Dare you see a soul at the White Heat?]

 [A light exists in spring]  

"[I heard a fly buzz, when I died"

Whitman (Whitman Style Sheet)

"I Sing the Body Electric"

"There was a Child Went Forth"

"The Wound-Dresser"

"When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer"