From humble Galesburg origins to national acclaim, Carl Sandburg and Dorothea Tanning are figures worthy of notice. This was the reason why Professor of English Robin Metz chose the two as the centerpieces of his English 380 course: Sandburg & Tanning.
Metz has created and taught many classes with a focus on a single author or artist. Some of these single author courses have been dedicated to Virginia Woolf, Richard Gates, August Wilson, Dylan Thomas and Ernest Hemingway. This time, he chose two individuals with strong roots in the Galesburg community and Knox College.
Metz has many goals for his students this term.
“Since Sandburg and Tanning both achieved international acclaim but began here in Galesburg from humble origins, one goal is to just show some pathways from Galesburg and Knox to a world of international acclaim,” Metz said.
This will include viewing the various works of Sandburg and Tanning through a “critical lens,” one that Metz has developed through his vast experience in the scholarly world.
“The Day Carl Sandburg Died,” a PBS film on the Galesburg poet, has been used by Metz and Co-Director of the Lincoln Studies Center Rodney Davis to tell the story of Carl Sandburg’s life and legacy to students.
“It is quite a surprise to see Sandburg addressing presidents,” Metz said.
The film and Carl Sandburg’s written works offer students a wide array of material to draw from when evaluating him.
“The course is divided into two parts,” Metz said. “One part on Sandburg, one part on Tanning. I always put [the author or artist] in the sociopolitical context of the places that were important in shaping their art.”
He explained that it is always a goal of his to be able to take his students to the hometown of the author or artist.
“After studying all the arts of London for 10 weeks here, we took the whole class to London over winter break for my London Arts Alive course,” he said.
Metz expressed his desire to take his students to New York to see the Museum of Modern Art, where a large display of Tanning’s work resides.
Another of Metz’s goals for his class involves understanding the way Knox College and Galesburg have come together to celebrate these two historical figures. This includes the Carl Sandburg Days, the Dorothea Tanning festival and the formation of the “sister-city” relationship between Galesburg and Swansea that Metz established with the Welsh government.
“This is the first sister city arrangement that has been based on the relationship of artists,” Metz said.
Metz said that he would enjoy doing another course on Carl Sandburg and Dorothea Tanning some day. The focus on Tanning and Sandburg allows Metz to draw on the interdisciplinary nature of both figures, something inherent in not only the creative writing major, but within the liberal arts education at Knox as a whole.