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Revolution of the Word in Context: Modernisms

ENGL 288.301
instructor(s):
TR 10:30-12

This "reading workshop" is an introduction to the unprecedented range of different types of poetry and lyric writing that emerged in the early decades of the last century in the U.S. We'll read the best known "canonical" poets of the modernist period, such as Eliot, Frost, Pound, Williams, and Stevens; the more formally radical and experimental poets, such as Stein, H.D, and Loy; AfricanAmerican poetry (James Weldon Johnson, Claude McKay); the more conventional or popular poets (Sandburg, Amy Lowell); as well as the political poetry of the time, "high" academic poetry; and also explore other, harder to classify, directions. Some consideration of contemporary popular song lyrics (Irving Berlin, Charley Patton, Cole Porter) will also be included. Textbooks will be the recent anthology of 20th Century American Poetry from the Library of America (volume one) and Jerome Rothenberg’s anthology Revolution of the Word. Sound recordings of many of the poets will be played. There will also be a listserv class discussion and the use of supplemental resources on the web.

This "creative reading workshop" combines aspects of a literature class with some of the formats of a creative writing class. Assignments will include both journal responses to the assigned reading and interactive “wreading” experiments (including imitation, performance, translation/rewording, and recombination/reordering/deforming). The workshop is less concerned with analysis or explanation of individual poems than with finding ways to intensify the experience of poetry, of the poetic, through a consideration of how the different styles and structures and forms of modern poetry can affect the way we see and understand the world. No previous experience with poetry is necessary. More important is a willingness to consider the implausible, to try out alternative ways of thinking, to listen to the way language sounds before trying to figure out what it means, to lose yourself in a flurry of syllables and regain your bearings in dimensions otherwise imagined as out-of-reach.