Whitman's Civil War

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July 18-September 5, 2016: The IWP will open the new MOOC Whitman's Civil War: Writing and Imaging Loss, Death, and Disaster. This MOOC will embark upon a journey through Walt Whitman's writings on the American Civil War. Through Whitman's lens, we will explore how writing and image can be used to examine war, conflict, trauma, and reconciliation - in Whitman's time and today. This MOOC will be taught on NovoEd, a website for creative collaborative learning. Registration is free! Sign up on NovoEd’s website.


This MOOC will be taught by longtime friends and collaborators Ed Folsom, Whitman scholar and University of Iowa Roy J. Carver Professor of English; and Christopher Merrill, IWP Director and University of Iowa Professor of English.

MOOC Description

Whitman's Civil War will be taught in English as follows: each week, instructors Folsom and Merrill will post a new video class. In this video class, they will discuss the readings for the week (all accessible online) and offer questions for you to discuss with the teaching team.

Each week, a new assignment will challenge you to respond creatively to the class video and readings. This assignment will be multi-genre: you could respond to it by writing a poem or a short nonfiction piece, trying your hand at the art of letters or memoir, or creating a journalistic op-ed or a photojournalism essay. Each assignment will be followed by community feedback with your fellow MOOC students.

Interactive Teaching, International Community

Each week, an experienced teaching team with expertise in literature, poetry, nonfiction, journalism, and photojournalism will lead live discussions of the video topics, readings, and assignments around the clock in the MOOC discussion forum.

No previous experience in literature, writing, or any other course subject is necessary. This MOOC will bring together readers, writers, artists, students, and teachers around the world. Some of you are already deeply familiar with Walt Whitman's writings; others are new to his work. Participants who are nonnative speakers of English, new to online learning, and/or new to writing are encouraged to join this new international community. Our community moderators will actively support your participation.


The amount of time you devote to this MOOC is up to you. If you wish to engage with the class video and reading, discuss with the teaching team, complete the assignment, and participate in community feedback, we estimate that this will require 5 or more hours of your time per week. Some MOOC participants will spend more time; others will spend less. No particular commitment is required: join us whenever you can!

Optional MOOC Certificate of Completion

Again, this MOOC is freely available to everyone in the world; there is no cost to register. The University of Iowa will offer an optional MOOC Certificate of Completion for a fee of $50.00 USD. You are not required to pay this fee in order to register for and participate in this MOOC. Those who wish to earn the MOOC Certificate of Completion must complete a set percentage of the MOOC coursework. You can read the details of the completion requirements and sign up for the certificate when the MOOC begins on July 18.

Technical Requirements

You will need a computer or mobile device with a stable internet connection that will support your participation. If you would like to take this course but do not have reliable internet access, please contact us at distancelearning.iwp@gmail.com. We will try to facilitate a local MOOC access group where you live.

Happening Now

  • Kristian Sendon CORDERO (IWP '17) co-edited a special issue of Words Without Borders on writing in the Philippines. Its range of poetry in the country's many languages includes Filipino work of Genevieve ASENJO (IWP '12).

  • Muhamed "Nabo" ABDELNABI (Egypt, IWP '13) has been awarded France's 2019 Prix de la littérature arabe for his 2016 novel, published last year in the UK as In the Spider's Room .

  • Over on  Asymptote, in English and Cantonese, the long poem " The Man Who Lost HIs Shadow,"  by Hong Kong poet and editor Stuart LAU (IWP '17).

  • On fish-paste English and cheddar-English: a long interview at LARB (Los Angeles Review of Books) about language, politics, and language politics with Burmese poet and worker KO KO THETT (IWP '16).

  • Behind the 2018+ 2019 Nobel Prizes for Literature given to novelists Peter Handke  and Olga Tokarczuk are translators--one key among them Jennifer CROFT, novelist as well as translator from the Polish, Ukrainian, and  Spanish. Congratulations!

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