This course offers an introduction to modernist poetry through the frame of two of the major poets of modernism: W.B. Yeats and Ezra Pound. Living together for three winters in Stone Cottage in Sussex, Yeats and Pound had a formative influence not only on the course of modern literary history, but also on each other. While their poetry and poetics differed in important ways, both Yeats and Pound used poetry to confront the social, political and cultural transformations of modernity: imperial domination and national revolt, the radical expansion of mass media, the violent upheaval of world-scale war, the growth of the urban metropolis, and the increasing dominance of scientific, rational, and technical modes of thinking. As we trace their poetic careers, we’ll use Yeats and Pound to establish a framework through which to read a number of poets on whom they had a direct or indirect influence: T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, H.D., Wallace Stevens, James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, Elizabeth Bishop, and W.H. Auden, before concluding with some contemporary poets who continue to engage with their modernist legacies. Throughout the course, we will use various research strategies to give historical content and aesthetic depth to the term “modernism,” examining its inclusions, exclusions, and relationship to contemporary art. No previous knowledge of modernist poetry is necessary for this course.
The Junior Research Seminar is designed to involve students in the kinds of research that the discipline of literary studies currently demands, including: working with primary sources and archival materials; reviewing the critical literature; using online databases of historical newspapers, periodicals, and other cultural materials; exploring relevant contexts in literary, linguistic, and cultural history; studying the etymological history and changing meanings of words; experimenting with new methods of computational analysis of texts; and other methodologies. The course typically involves a few main texts that are studied intensively from a variety of approaches. Research exercises throughout the semester will enable and culminate in a final project: either a scholarly essay of 10-15 pages or a creative project. In either case, the final project must emerge out of each student's intensive, independent research agenda.