Poetry in the modernist mode, including such poets as Yeats, Eliot, Pound, Auden, and Moore.
This course ponders when, how, and why US poets begin to write “modernist” verse. We will begin by looking at different kinds of “vernacular modernism” that emerge around 1910 (Imagism, the Chicago School, Robert Frost) and examine two later figures who extend and complicate this mode (Langston Hughes, Robinson Jeffers). Poetry, these various figures believed, should be written in a language as close to everyday American speech as possible. Not everyone agreed. We will look at two other kinds of 1910s modernism that questioned whether an “everyday,” “common,” and “natural” language was anything other than a populist fiction: first, Gertrude Stein’s avant-gard verse and, second, the oblique allusive ironic style pioneered by T.S. Eliot in Prufrock and Other Observations. After a survey of several of the ambitious “high modernists” who dominate the 1920s (Moore, Pound, Stevens, Williams), we will spend several days concentrating on the most famous of all US modernist texts, T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” How did this one difficult and peculiar poem end up symbolizing a generation and an era?
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Recommended: English 202 and 302 or equivalent.
Previous coursework in poetry helpful but not necessary.
Class assignments and grading
Two essays and a final exam.
Paper #1 -- 20% Paper #2 -- 35% Final Exam -- 45%