Twentieth-Century Literature: Rebels of Modernist Poetry

English 2140
Rebels of Modernist Poetry – Making It New
Section 1
Raymond Ronci
Tate 111

No study of “the rebels” of Modernist poetry would be complete without starting with the ground-breaking American poets Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Though radically different from each other, their inspiration was felt far and wide by those to come soon after them. They had, each of them, found a way to make poetry new and fresh and, ultimately, modern.

Exactly what were the Modernist poets rebelling against? Like most rebels, they were rejecting the status quo, the verse of the Romantics and the Victorians. They were opting for a new verse that addressed the issues of the modern, turbulent world by breaking the metrical rules and formal concerns of traditional poetry, (or at least shaking them up, twisting and distorting them). The new poetry for the new world was to be difficult, complex, cross-cultural, trans-historical and, for better or worse, (still open to debate), a poetry for the initiated. In addition to studying the modernist poets there will be some required research on collateral arts like Modernist painting and music.

Among the many poets to be studied are: Thomas Hardy, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, Mina Loy, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), E.E. Cummings, Stevie Smith, Laura Riding, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Lorine Niedecker, Kenneth Rexroth and George Oppen. 

There will be two formal papers, one at mid-term and one final; plus weekly reading journals. A final project will include the creation of a Modernist poetry anthology.