David W. Huntsperger
Seminar study of special topics in language and literary study. Limited to seniors majoring in English.
For AUTUMN 2007: The Center Did Not Hold: The Cultures of Twentieth-Century British Poetry. William Butler Yeats’s well-known line “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold” could easily be used to describe the de-centered pluralism of twentieth-century British poetry. British poetry of the last century comprises a remarkably diverse body of work. Poets from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the post-colonial world all contributed to the development of modern and postmodern poetics. Thus, the study of twentieth-century British poetry always necessitates a consideration of globalization and the fate of nationalism in a transnational milieu. In this course, we will study British poetry as a de-centered, hybrid, permeable phenomenon that has been open to influences as varied as French symbolism, international modernism, American avant-gardism, and Jamaican dub poetics. Our primary text, Keith Tuma’s Anthology of Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry, is especially attentive to the experimental strains of British modernism, and we will be as well.
This course is a senior seminar, which means that students will be expected to participate actively. Most of our class time will be spent close-reading and discussing poetry. The final paper will give students a chance to explore the work of a poet (or poets) whom they find especially interesting. We will also devote some time to discussing developments in British popular music. From jazz to the British invasion to reggae to punk rock, pop music has had an impact on poetry. We’ll investigate possible connections between these two cultural formations. We’ll also try to be self-reflexive about or methodology. What are the benefits and potential pitfalls of using poetry as a primary research archive? How can we effectively combine close reading and cultural studies in order better understand literary history? Is poetry still relevant today? We’ll consider these and similar questions in what I hope will be a productive, exciting—and also fun—seminar.
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