Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

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

ENGL 288.401

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 recent anthology of 20th Century American Poetry from the Library of America (volume one). 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.

Works will be presented from well-known poets but there will be equally 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 . . .

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 on this class at . If you look at the syllabus for my version of English 88 -- up to session #19 only -- you will get a definite idea of the course of study. Admission to English 288 by permit only. If you would like to take the course, send me a brief email stating your interest and that you have reviewed the basic course structure:

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