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Revolution of the Word: Modernist American Poetry and Poetics (1900-1945)

ENGL 269.402
crosslisted as: COML 281
TR 1:30-3
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 different types of poetry that emerged in the early decades of the last century in the U.S. as well as to contemporary North American poetry, with attention also to related developments in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in the visual arts. 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 the Objectivists; African American 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. Textbook will be The New Anthology of American Poetry: Modernisms 1900-1950, Vol. 2, from Rutgers. Sound recordings of many of the poets will be played via PennSound. There will also be a listserv class discussion and the use of supplemental resources on the web.
Works will be presented from well-known poets but there will be equally attention to a range of lesser known poets as well as occasional visits by contemporary poets now actively working to delight, inform, redress, lament, extol, oppose, renew, rhapsodize, imagine, foment . . .
This is a good course for those who know a lot about modern poetry but also for those who want a lively introduction.

This "creative reading workshop" combines aspects of a literature class with some of the formats of an experimental creative writing class. 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 contemporary 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.

More information, and syllabus, at