Twentieth-Century British Poetry

9:05a-9:55a MWF (30) 3 cr. Note time and day change.


This course will explore twentieth-century British poetry by focusing on the often fraught relationship between poetic voice and the tangible bodies to which it refers. First and foremost, we will examine the ways in which poetic voice and the human body shape one another, the tensions between verbal expression and sensual experience. Moreover, we will examine voice in relation to larger social and political bodies, as it gives expression to and tries to reimagine the pressures of communal and national belonging. The twentieth-century poem, in other words, will be studied as a dynamic system of material and discursive forces, as a manifestation as well as a reimagining of the historical conditions in which it was made. To accomplish this, we will consider a wide array of poets and poetic movements loosely organized around the concept of "Britishness." We will look closely at modernist and avant-garde experimentation, the use of innovative form as a response to the radical experiences of war, technology, and the city as well as to the new politics of gender and labor. We will also trace the mutating relations between Irish nationalist politics and Irish poetry, moving though the mythic idealism of the early twentieth-century to the postmodern playfulness of the latter. We will consider voices from the Caribbean that undermine the very notion of a national poetics as well as the parameters of poetry, particularly the dub poets of the Black Britain movement. Throughout, we will consider the relations between poetry and other forms of expression, most notably the transactions that occur between poetry, painting, and music.

We will generally avoid anthologies, using poets' collected works wherever possible. Most likely, we will consider some, but not all, of the following: A.E. Housman, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, T.S. Eliot, H.D., Mina Loy, Philip Larkin, W.H. Auden, W.B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Mebdh McGuckian, Carol Ann Duffy, Edward Brathwaite, Linton Kwesi Johnson, David Dabydeen, Derek Walcott. This is a discussion-based course, so both attendance and participation are mandatory. Students will be assigned a few short analyses of individual poems, one longer research paper, and a class presentation.