English | 20th Century American Poetry
L357 | 2215 | Foster
L357 2215 FOSTER
Twentieth-Century American Poetry
2:30p-3:45p TR (30) 3 CR.
This course will be organized around intensive readings in the work
of a set of major American modernist poets, from the first half of
the twentieth century, probably including Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot,
Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, H.D.
(Hilda Doolittle), and Langston Hughes (we will probably also do
some readings in other Harlem Renaissance poets besides Hughes). It
is likely that we will also spend some time at the end of the
semester on contemporary or post-World War II American poets,
probably focusing on poets who can be understood as working within
the traditions established by these modernists. We may also spend
some time discussing examples of the late modernist turn toward
the “long poem” – that is, the reemergence of the epic or narrative
impulse within twentieth century poetry.
This course will therefore be focused on defining the concept of
modernism within poetic practice and on the ways in which modernist
poets attempted to “make it new,” to reassess and reinvent the
conventions of their genre, as part of a more general cultural
project of understanding the break with the Victorian past that
World War I seemed to mark. The modernist period is characterized
by more or less extreme forms of formal experimentation, and we will
be concerned both with the challenge such experiments pose for
readers and with the question of how to contextualize these formal
Readings for the course will include volumes of selected or
collected poems by the major modernist figures we will read; I will
probably also order some anthology of Harlem Renaissance poetry and
an anthology of contemporary or postmodern poetry.
Course requirements will include 2 papers, a take-home midterm exam
and a final exam.