20th-century American Literature: Postmodern American Poetry

English 4320
Postmodern American Poetry
Section 1
Raymond Ronci
Arts & Science 202

English 4320 -- Postmodern Voices: American Poetry since 1945

The term Postmodern American poetry usually refers to only the experimental, avant-garde poetry written since about 1945 through 2000. I have broadened this perspective to include all poetry since 1945 to the present. I have done this so that we can discuss the dramatic differences in the various poetic (and political) movements that have occurred in the last several decades and see what seems conventional and what seems experimental or avant-garde in the poetry.

Among the movements or "schools" to be discussed: Late Modernists: Objectivists & Projectivists; Confessional Poetry; The New York School; The San Francisco Renaissance; Beat Poetics; The Black Arts Movement; Feminist Poetries; Eco-poetics; Language Writing; The Contemporary Mainstream Lyric.

The major poets to be studied are too many to list, but a sample includes the following: Charles Olson, Elizabeth Bishop, Denise Levertov, Sylvia Plath, James Wright, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O'Hara, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Hayden, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Michael Palmer, Jorie Graham, etc.

In addition to studying the theories of poetics that informed the different schools of poetry, students will be asked to consider the political and cultural climate that informed the different poetic movements. Art is always in dialogue with the changing times. We will be looking at the poems themselves as a response to the transition from High Modernism to Postmodernism. 

There will be weekly reading and writing assignments that will culminate in a formal mid-term paper and a formal final paper. The final project will also include the creation of a Postmdern poetry anthology -- the students will choose the poems, the design format and layout, and the general introduction will be the final formal essay.