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20th Century Poetry

ENGL 062.401
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

This "reading workshop" is an introduction to the unprecedented range of language exploration in the poetry that emerged in the 20th century from Europe, Latin America and others parts of the world. The basic course text will be Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry, edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris. The anthology features poets such as Mallarmé, Rilke, Tzara, Mayakovsky,Vallejo, Artaud, and Césaire, along with a sampling of some of the most significant movements in poetry and the other arts: Futurism, Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism, "Objectivism," Negritude. We will also look at sound and visual poetry and also the new digital poetry that is emerging on the Intenet. In addition, there will be a few poets visiting the class -- reading and discussing their work with the seminar.

The "reading 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 20th century 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.
The basic requirement for the class is a weekly response to the assigned readings - usually a notebook entry, imitation, or experiment. These responses are open-ended and can be in whatever form you choose - they are meant to encourage interaction with the poems and also serve as a record of your reading. The experiments are based on list of exercises (something like laboratory work!) aimed at getting inside the styles of the various poets studied. The responses and experiments will form the basis of workshop discussions.

The readings for this workshop are extensive and cannot all be discussed in class. The concept is for you to saturate yourself in 20th-century poetry. Works will be presented from well-known poets but there will be equal attention to a range of lesser known poets as well as on younger poets now actively working to delight, inform, redress, lament, extol, oppose, renew, rhapsodize, imagine, foment . . .

Syllabus is on-line at; see links there for "Introduction" and "Requirements."
By permit only. Send an email expressing your interest in the class to Charles.Bernstein@English.Upenn.Edu