Studies in Modern Literature: Modernist and Avant-Garde Poetries and Their Contexts

Course Number: ENGL 187AG
Prerequisites: Check on GOLD
Advisory Enrollment Information: May be repeated for credit providing letter designations are different.
General Education Areas Fulfilled: Check on GOLD
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 187AA-ZZ
Quarter: Summer A 2011
Day(s): MTWR
Time: 11:00 AM - 12:05 AM
Location: BSIF 1217

May be repeated for credit to a maximum of 28 units provided letter designations are different.

“To be in different states without a change / is not a possibility” – so says Charles Olson in his 1949 poem “The Kingfishers,” and this is the fundamental basis of our course of study. This course offers an opportunity to read and discuss poetry that responds to the experience of living in the twentieth century with radical reinventions of what poetry is. We will read poetry by twentieth century Modernists who believed poetry should not just mimic what came before, but be invented anew and afresh in order to make any kind of sense in relation to the cultural changes of their time. We will also distinguish between Modernists and the avant-garde, and ask if there can be an “avant-garde tradition,” or if that is an oxymoron. To this end, we will also read poetry from the last half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first to consider how poets take on the challenge of innovating after Modernism had already accomplished, to quote Pound, “the first heave” of abandoning the use of regular meter and rhyme schemes. We will consider what this recent poetry tells us about the impact on language and literature of living in post-industrial, media-saturated, globally-connected cultures. The language-play that is an essential element of innovative poetry has been the delight of poets from many places, so we will read poets from the USA, Britain, Ireland, and Europe. Despite the common language of English, the differing influences of the dominant cultures in each nation provide context for understanding why these formally adventurous poets choose to avoid lyric structures to represent their ideas. Reading essays by poets and cultural theorists will provide critical contexts for the literary texts.

Course Goals: To become familiar with Twentieth Century non-lyric poetry. To understand texts as art objects that are produced from within cultural, economic, and political contexts. To master the art of close reading poetry to reveal its connections with the larger world. To learn how to conduct research in archives and online and incorporate it into an essay. To further develop skills of oral and written communication and argumentation.

This elective course counts towards the Modern Literature and Critical Theory (COMMA) Specialization in the English major.