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Modern American Poetries

Alan Golding, University of Louisville

Texts: Cary Nelson, ed., Anthology of Modern American Poetry. For the website associated with the anthology, containing biographical and critical information on the poets, go to

Course objectives: My main objective is to have you develop as full and complex sense as possible of what's meant by the terms "modernism" and "modernist" as applied to American poetry. Since achieving a definition of modernism--or, more precisely, "modernisms"--is more than enough to occupy even a regular semester, in the three weeks available to us we'll limit our readings to poetry from the period 1910-1930.

Daily Schedule: (All page references are to the Nelson anthology; "ff" means "and following pages." Always read the anthology intro. to each assigned author. I've allowed for some flexibility in the schedule, especially in the last week of class; any changes will be announced in class.)

M. 5/14: Introduction to modernist poetry; begin Imagism.

Tu. 5/15: Ezra Pound and Imagism; begin T. S. Eliot.

(1) Pound (220ff): "A Pact," "In a Station of the Metro," "The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter," Canto I, Canto IX.

(2) H.D. (232ff): "Sea Rose," "Oread," "Garden."

(3) William Carlos Williams (164ff): "The Great Figure," "The Red Wheelbarrow."

Handout: Pound, "A Retrospect" (essay).

Begin Eliot (277ff), "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

W. 5/16: T. S. Eliot (277ff): Contine with "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," The Waste Land. Handout: "Tradition and the Individual Talent," "Ulysses, Order, and Myth" (essays).

Th. 5/17: William Carlos Williams (164ff): All poems in text up to and including "The Yachts," and including those already assigned for Tu. 5/15. Handout: "Tract," "Introduction to The Wedge."

F. 5/18: Wallace Stevens (124ff): "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," "Tea at the Palaz of Hoon," "Anecdote of the Jar," "Sunday Morning," "The Snow Man," "The Idea of Order at Key West," "Of Modern Poetry." Handout: selection from "The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words" (essay).

M. 5/21-Tu. 5/22: The Harlem Renaissance: we'll discuss the assigned texts in the order laid out here:

(1) Alain Locke, "The New Negro"; George Schuyler, "The Negro-Art Hokum"; Langston Hughes, "The Negro Writer and the Racial Mountain" (all handouts). James Weldon Johnson, "O Black and Unknown Bards" (31).

(2) All poems by Langston Hughes (502ff) up to and including "Park Bench"; also "Harlem," and the graphic presentations of Hughes poems, 1230-32. All poems by Countee Cullen (530ff). All poems by Jean Toomer (352ff). Handout: Hughes, "Song for a Dark Gal," "Young Gal's Blues," "Afro-American Fragment," "Dream Boogie"; Cullen, "To Certain Critics," "Scottsboro, Too, Is Worth Its Song," "Pagan Prayer."

(3) All poems by Angelina Weld Grimke (145ff), Georgia Douglas Johnson (147ff), Anne Spencer (162ff), Gwendolyn Bennett (528ff). Further handout poems by these writers.

W. 5/23-F. 5/25: Gender and Modernism

(1) Review previously assigned poems by H.D. ("Sea Rose," "Oread," "Garden") and add "Mid-day," "Helen," "Eurydice";

(2) Edna St. Vincent Millay (320ff), "First Fig," "Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word," "I, being born a woman . . . ," "Justice Denied in Massachusetts";

(3) Marianne Moore (250ff), "Poetry," "The Pangolin," "The Paper Nautilus," "An Egyptian Pulled Glass Bottle in the Shape of a Fish," "Sojourn in the Whale," "Marriage";

(4) Amy Lowell (44ff), "Venus Transiens," "Madonna of the Evening Flowers," "The Weather-Cock Points South," "The Sisters";

Handout: H.D., "Evadne," "Calypso"; Millay, "What lips my lips have kissed . . . ," "I will put Chaos into fourteen lines."

Also F. 5/25: First draft of paper due in class for editing--bring 3 copies. If you don't produce a first draft or attend the editing workshop, your paper grade will be reduced one letter grade.


Tu. 5/29: PAPER DUE. Another modernism: Robert Frost (84ff): "Mending Wall," "Home Burial," "The Road Not Taken," "The Oven Bird," "An Old Man's Winter Night," "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," "Desert Places," "Design." Handout: "The Pasture," "'Out, Out---,'" "Once by the Pacific," "The Figure a Poem Makes" (essay).

W. 5/30-Th. 5/31: I'm leaving these two days free for make-up purposes, review, etc. If we're ahead of schedule, readings will be assigned later for these classes.

F. 6/1: First day of final presentations.

M. 6/4: Second day of final presentations.

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