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20th Century Poetry

ENGL 062.001

Word on Fire: Gender, Sexuality, Twentieth-Century Lyric

From antiquity to the present, lyric poetry has stood as one of the
most generative, powerful, and controversial kinds of Western
literature. From Sappho’s ancient poetic fragments beseeching the
goddess Aphrodite to reunite her with a reluctant lover to Bernadette
Mayer’s “scattered love poems” of the frenetic, politically charged
present day, lyric poetry has both fired up the literary imagination
and been hotly contested by those who question its biases and
assumptions. This course asks: what happens to the lyric poem in the
twentieth and twenty-first centuries? Does the form which Plato calls
“mixed” and “inferior,” Adorno describes as “a subjective expression
of a social antagonism,” and several theorists reject as hopelessly
mired in bourgeois romantic ideology survive? Does the label “lyric”
even apply to poetry that attacks its long history of using
interiority, voice, and musicality to deal with romantic love? This
course will address how modern and contemporary poets imagine new
definitions of lyric by experimenting with the themes and tropes of
gender and sexuality, and what those experiments teach us about the
cultural politics of form. Readings may include: Swinburne’s decadent
ballads, H.D.’s crystalline feminist myths, Mina Loy’s cerebral love
songs, Lorine Niedecker’s “cremated haiku,” Frank O’Hara’s daily lunch
poems, Ted Berrigan’s “sonnet machine,” Harryette Mullen’s
Shakespearean cutups, Jen Bervin’s palimpsests, and “post-” or
“anti-lyric” poems by an array of avant-garde and conceptual writers.
Students can expect a midterm and final exam, as well as two five-page
essays and regular responses to course materials using a collaborative
blog and Twitter feed.



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