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EN248 Modern American Poetry

This is a Pathway Approved Option for the North American Pathway and one of the Distributional Requirements for the English Pathway. Can also be selected as an option under the remaining Pathways.

Syllabus 2018-19 (subject to minor revisions)



Professor Daniel Katz (convenor)

Seminars: Tuesday 11:00 - 12:30, Tuesday 1:00 - 2:30

Term 1

Week 1: introduction

Week 2: Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass: “Song of Myself,” “Once I Pass’d through a Populous City,” “In Paths Untrodden,” “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.”

Recommended Reading: B. Erkkila, "Leaves of Grass and the Body Politic."

Week 3: Emily Dickinson, selected poems (from Final Harvest): “I never lost as much but twice,” “I’m ‘wife--I've finished that,” “Safe in their Alabaster Chambers,” “I held a jewel in my fingers,” “There’s a certain Slant of light,” “I felt a Funeral in my Brain,” “The Soul selects her own Society,” “I know that He exists,” “After great pain, a formal feeling comes—,” “Rehearsal to Ourselves,” “I heard a Fly buzz--when I died--” “I started Early-Took my Dog--” “Mine--by the Right of the White Election!”, “The Heart asks Pleasure--first--,” “To fill a Gap,” “The Brain--is wider than the Sky--” “I cannot live with You-,” “Me from Myself--to banish--,” “Pain--has an Element of Blank--,” “One need not be a Chamber--to be Haunted--” “Essential Oils--are wrung--” “Publication--is the Auction,” “Because I could not stop for Death--” “Renunciation--is a piercing Virtue--” “My Life had stood--a Loaded Gun--” “A loss of something ever felt I-” “The Missing All – prevented Me,” “Title divine – is mine!” Letters: (on handout).

Recommended Reading: W. M. Decker: "A Letter Always Seemed to Me Like Immortality: Emily Dickinson"

Week 4: Imagism and Transatlantic Modernism: H. D. and Ezra Pound. Pound: "The Return," “The Garden,” “A Pact,” “In a Station of the Metro,” “Les Millwins,” “Tame Cat,” “Alba,” “The Return,” “Fan-piece, for Her Imperial Lord,” “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter,” “Alba.” HD: “Orchard,” “Oread,” “Garden,” “Sea Violet,” “Sea Poppies,” “Storm,” “Sea Iris,” “The Pool,” “Fragment 113,” “Hermes of the Ways” (photocopy). Texts on poetics: Ezra Pound, "A Retrospect" and excerpts from Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir.

Recommended Reading: P. Peppis, "Schools, Movements, and Manifestoes," in The Cambridge Companion to Modernist Poetry (available as e-text through Warwick Library portal).

Week 5: Unreal Cities (1): T. S. Eliot: "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," E. Pound, Hugh Selwyn Mauberley,” M. Loy, “Songs to Joannes” and “Feminist Manifesto” (hand out).

Recommended Reading: Peter Nicholls, "The Poetics of Modernism" in The Cambridge Companion to Modernist Poetry (e-text through Warwick Library portal).

Week 6: Reading Week

Week 7: Unreal Cities (2), Order, and Myth: T. S. Eliot, "The Waste Land"; E. Pound, Canto II (Library of America anthology), Canto 14 (handout).

Texts on Poetics: T. S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent" and "Ulysses, Order and Myth."

Recommended Reading: Maud Ellmann, "A Sphinx without a Secret" (in course reader) and tba.

Week 8: 1923: W. C. Williams and Wallace Stevens. Wallace Stevens: "Sunday Morning," “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” “The Snow Man,” “Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock,” “Sea Surface Full of Clouds,” “The Idea of Order at Key West,” “Poetry is a Destructive Force,” “The Poems of Our Climate,” "Study of Two Pears," “Not Ideas about the Thing but the Thing Itself." W.C. Williams, excerpts from Spring and All (handout; pp. 1-40), and “Red Wheelbarrow” and “To Elsie”.

Recommended Reading: tba.

Week 9: The Harlem Renaissance and Minority Culture. Fenton Johnson, “Tired,” “Aunt Hannah Jackson,” “The Minister”; Claude McKay, “The Lynching,” “The Harlem Dancer,” “The Tropics in New York,” “Harlem Shadows,” “If We Must Die,” “Dawn in New York,” “Outcast,” “Jasmines,” “Negro Spiritual”; James Weldon Johnson, “O Black and Unknown Bards”; Angelina Weld Grimke, “Tenebris,” “A Mona Lisa,” “Epitaph on a Living Woman”; Anne Spencer, “At the Carnival,” “Lines to a Nasturtium"; Langston Hughes (from Selected Poems): "Afro-American Fragment," "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "Aunt Sue's Stories," "Danse Africaine," "The Weary Blues," "I,Too." Additional poems by Arna Bontemps, Sterling Brown, Countee Cullen (handout): S. Brown: "Long Gone," "Scotty Has His Say," "Ma Rainey"; A. Bontemps: "Reconnnaissance," "Southern Mansion," "Dark Girl," "A Black Man Talks of Reaping," C. Cullen: "Yet Do I Marvel," "Atlantic City Waiter," "Incident," "Heritage." Texts on Poetics: Langston Hughes, "The Negro Poet and the Racial Mountain."

Recommended Reading: Peter Brooker, "Modernism Deferred: Harlem Montage"; Marisa Parham, "Hughes, Cullen, and the In-Sites of Loss"; James Smethurst, "American Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance," Cambridge Companion to Modern American Poetry (e-book available through library portal).

Week 10: Marianne Moore, Observations.

Recommended Reading: tba.

Term 2

Week 11: Objectivism, Projective Verse, Black Mountain School: Post/Late Modernism. Charles Olson, 'I, Maximus of Gloucester, to You," "Letter 3," "Maximus, to himself"; Robert Creeley, "After Lorca," "A Form of Women," "The Rain," "For Love," "The Language," John Cage, "25 Mesostics Re and Not Re Mark Tobey"; G. Oppen, Thus/Hides the," “Who comes is occupied" (handout); WC Williams, from Paterson: "The Delineaments of the Giants." Texts on Poetics: C. Olson, "Projective Verse'; R. Creeley, "To Define," "Form"; W. C. Williams, "The Poem Paterson" and "Projective Verse."

Recommended Reading: "Mark Scroggins: “From the Late Modernism of the ‘Objectivists’ to the Proto-postmodernism of ‘Projective Verse” in Cambridge Companion to American Poetry since 1945 (available as e-resource through library portal). P. Nicholls, "Beginning Again".

Week 12: "The Homosexual in Society": Robert Duncan, Frank O'Hara, Allen Ginsberg, Gertrude Stein, Adrienne Rich. O’Hara: “Meditations in an Emergency,” “Personal Poem,” “A Step Away from Them,” “Ave Maria,” “Steps,” “Poem” ("Lana Turner has collapsed!"), "The Day Lady Died"; Duncan, “The Torso Passages 18”; Stein from “Lifting Belly” (in LOA anthology); Ginsberg: “Howl,” “A Supermarket in California”, “On Neal’s Ashes,” “America”; Adrienne Rich, “Splittings” (handout). Texts on Poetics and Sexuality: R. Duncan, "The Homosexuality in Society" (listed under "Faas"; Duncan's essay begins on p. 319; the preceding pages are Faas' account of its publication and consequences); Frank O'Hara, "Personism: A Manifesto"; Ginsberg, "Notes for Howl and Other Poems'; A. Rich: "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence."

Recommended Reading: M. Damon, "Dirty Jokes and Angels."

Week 13: Music and (minority) National Culture (1): Langston Hughes, Montage of a Dream Deferred; Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), "Swing: From Verb to Noun" (listed under "Jones").

Recommended Reading: Robert O'Brien Hokanson, "Jazzing It Up: The Be-Bop Modernism of Langston Hughes."

Week 14: Regionalisms, Narrative, Sub-National Cultures: Robert Frost and Gwendolyn Brooks. Frost: “Mending Wall,” “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “Birches,” “The Road Not Taken,” “Out, Out—,” “The Most of It,” “The Witch of Coos,” "Fire and Ice." G. Brooks: selections from A Street in Bronzeville (pp. 1-22 of Essential Gwendolyn Brooks), "We Real Cool," "A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi. Meanwhile, a Mississippi Mother Burns Bacon," "The Last Quatrain of the Ballad of Emmett Till."

Recommended Reading: Mark Richardson, "Robert Frost" and James Smethurst, "Gwendolyn Brooks" in The Cambridge Companion to American Poets (available as e-book through library portal). And tba.

Week 15: Confession and Discretion: Sylvia Plath, “Lady Lazarus,” “Daddy,” “Cut” (handout), “The Munich Mannequins” (handout), “Edge.” Elizabeth Bishop, “At the Fishhouses,” “The Fish,“The Armadillo,” “Sestina.” Adrienne Rich, “Trying to Talk with a Man” (handout), “Diving into the Wreck,” Harryette Mullen, excerpts from Muse & Drudge in Norton Anthology.

Recommended Reading: L. Keller and C. Miller, "Feminism and the Female Poet."

Supplementary Reading: Michael Thurston, "Psychotherapy and Confessional Poetry," in The Cambridge Companion to Modern American Poetry (available as e-book through library portal).

reading week

Week 17: Jack Spicer, Language (hand out).

Recommended Reading: tba.

Week 18: Immediate Mediacy: John Ashbery, James Schuyler. John Ashbery: "Clepsydra," "Soonest Mended," "The Double Dream of Spring" (all on handout), "Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape." James Schuyler: "Hymn to Life" (handout), "Korean Mums."

Recommended Reading: Ben Lerner: "The Future Continuous: Ashbery's Lyric Mediacy."

Week 19: L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Politics, Interiority, Form: Amiri Baraka, “Political Poem,” “Leroy”; R. Duncan, “Uprising: Passages 25” (handout); Bob Kaufman, (handout, tba); L. Hejinian,: “My Life” (excerpt); M. Palmer, “The Project of Linear Inquiry,” “I Do Not”; B. Perelman, “Confession,” “Current Poetics”; R. Silliman, “Tjanting” (excerpt); C. Bernstein, “Whose Language,” “This Line”; P. Gizzi, “In Defense of Nothing,”’ “A Panic That Can Still Come Upon Me”; B. Lerner, “The Dark collects,” and “In My Day”; Juliana Spahr, “Turnt”. Text on Poetics: L. Hejinian, "The Rejection of Closure" (excerpt); S. McCaffery, “Language Writing: from Productive to Libidinal Economy”; C. Bernstein, “Introjective Verse.”

Recommended Reading: S. McCaffery, "Language Writing" in The Cambridge Companion to American Poetry since 1945 (available as e-resource through library portal).

Supplementary reading: B. Watten, "Language Writing" in The Cambridge Companion to Modern American Poetry (e-resource, library portal).

Week 20: CAConrad, The Book of Frank.

Recommended Reading: tba


Seminars per week: 1 x 1.50 hours per week

Total Contact Hours: 30

Module Duration: 2 terms (20 weeks)

Method of assessment

2 x 5000-word essays (100% assessed) OR 1 x 5000-word essay and 1 x 2-hour (+15 min) examination (50/50).

The examination consists of one passage for close analysis and one essay question on general topics covered by the module.

Texts to Buy

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass and Other Writings (Edited by Michael Moon), Norton Critical Editions (Norton, 2002).

Emily Dickinson, Final Harvest, T. H. Johnson, editor, Back Bay Books.

Marianne Moore, Observations, Linda Leavell, ed., Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.

American Poetry: The Twentieth Century, Volume 1: Henry Adams to Dorothy Parker, Robert Haas, editor, Library of America (do not buy volume 2).

Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology,2nd Edition, Paul Hoover, editor, Norton: 2013. WARNING: MAKE SURE TO BUY THE 2ND EDITION DATING FROM 2013 AND NOT THE PREVIOUS EDITION USED IN THE PAST!

Langston Hughes, Selected Poems (Vintage or Serpent's Tail).

Gwendolyn Brooks: The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks. Edited by Elizabeth Alexander (American Poets Project/Library of America, 2005).

CAConrad, The Book of Frank (Wave Books, 2010)

Supplementary reading will be available as either scanned extracts or photocopies.

Essential Internet Resource: