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E30A MODERN POETRY: 1890-1945
(Academic Year 2002-2003: Semester II)


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Lecturer: Dr. Richard Clarke; E-mail:
E20A Poetry I: Wyatt to Pope and / or E20B Poetry II: Romantics and Victorians (especially the latter).  E20M Introduction to Milton may be acceptable.
Class Times: Two compulsory 1.5-hour seminars per week:

  • Seminar 1: Tuesday 10.30 AM - 12 NOON (A27)
  • Seminar 2: Thursday 10.30 AM - 12 NOON (A27)

Description:  This course offers a broad survey of modern poetry written in the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. from about the 1890's to about the end of the Second World War, the characteristic techniques and preoccupations of which have had a profound impact on all poetry written subsequently in this century. We will explore some of the innovative technical features (e.g. Eliot’s impersonal theory of poetry [the ‘objective correlative’], colloquialism, vers libre, the deconstruction of traditional generic boundaries, etc.) as well as the themes (urban life, nihilism, futility, despair, etc.) which made much modern poetry such a radical departure from the Romantic and Victorian modes of poetic discourse which preceded it.

We will attempt to study these techniques and themes by setting the poetry against the backdrop of the tumultuous economic, political and ideological changes that occurred during this period.  To this end, we will consider the impact upon the poetry of some or all of the following: the social consequences of industrialism, the apogee of empire, three monarchies, World War I and its aftermath, the dominance of political Liberalism, the rise of Communism and Fascism, the increasing nihilism attendant upon the decline of Christianity and the corresponding rise to prominence of positivist scientific discourses (in particular, Darwinist theories of evolution), the rise of the women’s movement, the Harlem Renaissance, etc.

To these ends, we will concentrate upon the following particularly influential poets in roughly chronological order: Thomas Hardy, Robert Frost, W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, H[ilda]. D[oolittle]., Marianne Moore, W. H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, and Countee Cullen.

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