English 100

Junior Seminar: William Carlos Williams

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
16 Fall 2005 Buck, Chansonette
TTh 3:30-5 109 Wheeler
Other Readings and Media

Williams, W.C.: The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Volumes I & II (ed. A. Walton Litz & Christopher MacGowan), In The American Grain, The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams, Yes, Mrs. Williams, Paterson; Mariani, P.: William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked; Breslin, J.: William Carlos Williams, An American Artist; a course reader containing selections from Williams's letters and criticism, plus a smattering of what I consider to be the most interesting critical approaches to Williams


"This course will introduce you to one of the most prolific, most daringly experimental, most influential, and most passionately autobiographical American writers of the 20th century. William Carlos Williams is primarily known, anthologized, and taught as a rigorously objective, unemotional, clear-eyed observer of the natural world, who wrote small, spare, jewel-like poems on prescription pads during breaks between patients in his busy pediatrics practice, and whose revolutionary line breaks and focus on the mundane inspired a generation of poets to break free from earlier formal strictures into ""free verse."" This is one facet of Williams, one truth about him. But this is not the Williams we should settle for. William Carlos Williams wrote small poems on prescription pads between patients, and then after a full day of work and family he disappeared into his study, where he wrote obsessively, in torrents, in every imaginable genre, into the wee hours. Far from being simply a dispassionate observer of the natural world, he splayed his passions, his torments, his questions, his theories about poetry and art, his family traumas, his agonized quest for an American literary identity, and his domestic joys and pains onto the page, leaving behind him a huge, sprawling, dizzyingly complex body of work. This semester we will dive into this body of work, leaving behind our presuppositions, and we will navigate its currents with the aid of some of the best Williams critics on record.

The essence of this course is discovery and communication. To that end, you will be expected to stay current with the reading, to find and actively share with your classmates each week your own anchor in the works, to write two small exploratory papers and one long final paper, and to present to your classmates at the end of the semester your own, newly discovered view of Williams. Expect to come away inspired.

Please read to page 48 in Mariani, and ""Asphodel That Greeny Flower"" (MacGowan, 310-337) in preparation for our first class. "

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