ENGL345 - Twentieth Century Poetry
101 - TBA

In this class, we will consider the major movements and “isms” in twentieth century American poetry—including imagism, modernism, the Harlem Renaissance poets, the Beats, the “confessional” school, and the “New York” school—by considering lengthy pieces of work by a variety of American poets. We will read volumes (or nearly full volumes) of poetry by Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, Langston Hughes, Robert Lowell, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, and Frank O’Hara, among others, as well as statements about poetry (what it is and what it should be) by several of these figures. Along the way, we will consider how these poets were responding to particular cultural and political conditions that distinguished American life in the twentieth century: the shift from agrarian to urban landscapes, shifts in labor conditions, shifts in gender and sexual identity, the emergence of modern war, and transformations in post-war American culture. We will consider contemporary critical reception of these books and ask, what was it like to encounter these texts in their own cultural moment? Along the way, we will study the formal techniques each poet employs in presenting new access to human experience in poetic form. Class will be run primarily by discussion. There will be frequent informal written assignments (including reading responses and imitations of poems), a presentation on a poet, two papers, and a final exam.


Two lower-level English courses, at least one in literature; or permission of department.