Claremont Discourse Lecture: What's Wrong With How We Read "The Gift Outright"?

Claremont Discourse Presents:
Robert Faggen, Barton Evans and H. Andrea Neves Professor of Literature, Claremont McKenna College

Wednesday, October 10th
4:15 PM
Founders Room
Honnold/Mudd Library

Snacks provided; discussion to follow.

Robert Frost became the first American poet to read a poem at a Presidential inauguration. But instead of reading the poem he had written for the event, circumstances led him to say a poem he had written many years earlier, "The Gift Outright." Many have interpreted the poem and the particular version he read on that day as a simple statement of American manifest destiny. Derek Walcott, an otherwise appreciative reader of Frost, gives a succinct summary of these interpretations: "This was the calm reassurance of American destiny that provoked Tonto's response to the Lone Ranger. No slavery, no colonization of Native Americans, a process of dispossession and then possession, but nothing about the dispossession of others that this destiny demanded." Professor Robert Faggen, author of Robert Frost and the Challenge of Darwin (1997, University of Michigan Press) and editor of the much-lauded and revelatory Notebooks of Robert Frost (2006, Harvard University Press) will explore how the occasion of the Kennedy inauguration and the subtlety of Frost's work obscures the historical origins and ambiguities of the poem which are coming to light for the first time.

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