English 131

American Poetry: How to Read: 20th-Century American Poetry

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2011 Cecire, Natalia
Cecire, Natalia
TTh 9:30-11 221 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Altieri, C.: The Art of Twentieth-Century American Poetry; Crane, H.: The Bridge; Hughes, L.: The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes; Niedecker, L.: New Goose; Pound, E.: A B C of Reading; Rainey, L. (ed.): Modernism: An Anthology; Toomer, J.: Cane

Recommended: MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Seventh Edition; Weston, A.: A Rulebook for Arguments, Fourth Edition


This course will provide an overview of American modernist poetry, addressing key concepts in modernism including impersonality, the crisis of representation, and abstraction. Among these, however, the course will take as its primary area of investigation modernist American poetry's manifold attempts to refashion the way people read, casting readers as pupils requiring instruction. This course explores the ways in which modernist poets construed literary change as demanding a return to "the basics": a revision of the literary canon, new demands on the reader's education and attention, and a reconsideration of what it means to read--or to learn to read. We will approach this topic from two critical angles: first, by way of theories of language advanced by Saussure, Austin, Derrida, and Wittgenstein in a philosophical return to the basics; second, through a consideration of the history of pedagogy and childhood in America. This course will prefer lingering over longer bodies of work to reading single poems by many authors; as always, coverage cannot be comprehensive. Students will write two short papers and take a final exam.

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