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Topics in American Poetry

ENGL 388.301
instructor(s):
MW 2-3:30

We will structure the course around two major works of American poetry from the early 1920s, The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot and Spring and All by William Carlos Williams. These are fascinating pieces in their own right and more fascinating in juxtaposition. Williams loathed Eliot's erudite poetry; and Eliot's affirmation of literary and social hierarchy was a major spur for Williams to produce a democratic modernism.

Opposed as the two works are, they share many common concerns. Crucial social questions of the day are deeply embedded in the texture of both works: the unprecedented barbarism of WWI; questions of women's sexuality and reproductive rights; questions of immigration and national purity.

We will read the poems, some critical background, and cultural contextualization. I expect that class interest will dictate some of the lines of investigation: birth control debates; the nascent science of anthropology; notions of 'the primitive', etc.

This is *not* a course designed only for those with a sophisticated poetry background. The poems are complex but are far from illegible; and their ramifications reach into many areas of interest.

Assignments: weekly reading & journals; a (not huge) final paper.