Approaches to Teaching H.D.'s Poetry and Prose (Approaches to Teaching World Literature)

, Co-Editor with Annette Debo
Lara Vetter
PhD, 2003
Modern Language Association of America, 2011

The poet Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) came on the literary scene in the 1910s as a young American expatriate living in England. Her early lyric poems, in Sea Garden, helped launch the free verse movement known as imagism. Her work as a whole, spanning five decades, includes long narrative poems, novels, memoirs, and translations. Her experience of the two world wars in Europe is felt throughout her oeuvre, much of which focuses on the power and destructiveness of war. Other recurring topics are ancient models of civilization, comparative mythology, and female deities suppressed in the modern era.

Since the 1970s, H.D.'s poetry and prose have appeared regularly on undergraduate and graduate syllabi, in courses ranging from American or British modernism and gender and sexuality studies to literature of war and classical literature and mythology. Yet her work--complex and densely allusive--can be difficult for students to comprehend and for instructors to teach. This volume aims to assist instructors in helping their students navigate the intricacies of H.D.'s work and overcome some of the frustration of deciphering modern poetry. The first part, "Materials," presents resources useful to instructors of H.D.'s work, and the second part, "Approaches," offers specific ways to teach her wide-ranging corpus. Contributors describe courses that teach H.D. in the context of modernism, alongside such writers as Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and Gertrude Stein. Others follow the themes of myth and religion in her long epic poems Helen in Egypt and Trilogy and her autobiographical work The Gift. H.D.'s analysis with Freud and her subsequent memoir of the experience find their place in a course on critical theory. Many instructors teach H.D. through the lens of sexuality, feminism, or race; others use interdisciplinary approaches that focus on H.D.'s engagement with film.