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20th-Century American Poetry
Dr. Kenneth Sherwood

About American Poetry, and This Course

“A high moment of the creative spirit”—this is how the critic, poet, and editor Hayden Carruth describes twentieth-century American poetry.  I happen to share this admittedly subjective judgment.  Modern American poetry may be—second only to jazz music—the most important contribution this country has made to world culture. I suppose that most teachers have a special enthusiasm for their “area,” convinced it holds special value; I won’t seriously try to defend it.  But on a personal note, I will mention that I probably would not be a college professor were it not for the attraction modern poetry had for me as an undergraduate. So I hope that the first thing you will gain from this course is an appreciation for the marvelous richness and diversity of this writing. More generally, you will develop the skills of literacy through writing (formal/informal) and discussion.  Beyond that, my objectives for this course are that you will:

Weekly Calendar of Readings

1.      The Ground: From Whitman's Breadth to Dickinson's Compression

2.      The Early Isms: Imagism, Vorticism, Futurism, Cubism—H.D., Pound, Loy, Stein

3.      The Constructivists: Collage, Syntax, and the "Word"—Williams,  Moore, Stein

4.      Colloquial American—Frost, Sandberg, Williams, Hughes

5.      Epic Classicism and the Objective Correlative in Ruins—Eliot, Pound

6.      Symbolist Echoes—Stevens, Eliot

7.      Harlem Renaissance—Brown, Linsday, Cullen, Johnson, McKay

8.      Objectivist Poetry and the Social—Zukofsky, Oppen, Niedecker, Reznikoff; Rukeyser

9.      The Mainstream 1950s—Bishop, Lowell, Berryman

10.  Black Mountain—Olson, Creeley, Levertov, Duncan

11.  Beat Poetry—Ginsberg, Snyder, Kaufman, Corso

12.  Confessionalism—Rich, Plath, Berryman, Sexton, Grahn

13.  New York School—Ashbery, O'Hara

14.  The New "Black" Poetry—Baraka, Knight, Brooks, Clifton, Harper

15.  Ethnic Identity—Momaday, Young Bear, Baca, Alexie, Erdrich, Chin, Foster, Espada

16.  Language Poetry—Howe, Silliman, Mullen

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