Modern Poetry

Video Lectures

Displaying all 25 video lectures.
Lecture 1
Introduction to Modern English Poetry
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Introduction to Modern English Poetry
Overview: Professor Hammer introduces students to the material that will be covered in the course of the semester. Course readings and requirements are also addressed. Early publications of poems are discussed as they appeared in small magazines such as Blast, Broom, and The Criterion. Book publication of the same poems and other poetry collections are then discussed in contrast. A number of modern English poets are presented such as Eliot, Hughes, Moore, Yeats, and photographs are shown in order to introduce students to the major poets of the early twentieth century.
Lecture 2
The Poetry and Life of Robert Frost
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The Poetry and Life of Robert Frost
Overview: The poetry and life of Robert Frost are characterized in opposition to the works of nineteenth-century poets and Modernists Eliot and Pound. Frost's poetic project, how he positions himself among his contemporaries, his poetics of work, and his concept of "the sound of sense" are discussed. The poems "Mowing" and "'Out, Out--'" are interpreted, and the tensions between vernacular language and poetic form that they showcase are explored.
Lecture 3
Robert Frost: Birches, Home Burial,
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Robert Frost: Birches, Home Burial, "Provide, Provide" and DIrective
Overview: In this second lecture on the poetry of Robert Frost, the poet's use of iambic pentameter in "Birches" is discussed. Frost's anti-modernity is evidenced in his interest in rural New England culture and his concern with the lives of laborers in "Home Burial." The failure of humanity to work real change is sardonically depicted in "Provide, Provide," but a hopeful vision of the power of imagination is presented in the final lines of the late poem, "Directive."
Lecture 4
William Butler Yeats' Early Poetry
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William Butler Yeats' Early Poetry
Overview: The early poetry of William Butler Yeats is read and interpreted with particular attention paid to Yeats's ambitions as a specifically Irish poet. Yeats's commitment to a poetry of symbol is explored in "The Song of the Wandering Aengus," a fable of poetic vocation. "A Coat," composed at the end of Yeats's struggle to bring about an Irish national theater, shows the poet reconceiving his style and in search of a new audience. "The Fisherman" is read as a revision of "The Song of the Wandering Aengus" which reflects this new set of concerns.
Lecture 5
William Butler Yeats' Middle Period
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William Butler Yeats' Middle Period
Overview: Yeats's middle period is explored, beginning with the middle-aged Yeats's assumption of the role of spokesman for Irish nationalism and the development of his complicated response to nationalist violence. The aestheticization of violence is considered in the poem "Easter, 1916" and briefly in "The Statues." Yeats's conception of the relationship of violence to history, with particular emphasis on the frightening interaction among the divine, the human, and the bestial, is demonstrated in the visionary poems "The Second Coming" and "The Magi," and finally in "Leda and the Swan."
Lecture 6
William Butler Yeats' Late Poetry
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William Butler Yeats' Late Poetry
Overview: Yeats's late poetry is discussed and interpreted. The poet's interest in human knowledge and its relationship to the body, particularly the aging body, is traced from "Leda and the Swan" to "Sailing to Byzantium," "In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz," "Two Songs from a Play," and "Vacillation." Yeats's late interest in the experiences of joy, madness, and "gaiety" is examined in "Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop." Yeats's de-mystifying attitude toward art in "The Circus Animals' Destruction" is contrasted with his celebration of art in "Lapis Lazuli."
Lecture 7
World War I Poetry in England
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World War I Poetry in England
Overview: A representative sample of English poetry of World War One is surveyed. War rhetoric and propaganda are examined and challenged in Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est" and "Strange Meeting." The relationship between home front and battle front is explored in Thomas Hardy's "Channel Firing," "In the Time of 'the Breaking of Nations,'" and "I Looked up From My Writing"; Edward Thomas's "Adlestrop"; and Siegfried Sassoon's "'Blighters.'" Isaac Rosenberg's "Louse Hunting" is discussed as a poem of ordinary experience in the trenches.
Lecture 8
Imagism: Doolittle and Pound
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Imagism: Doolittle and Pound
Overview: The Imagist school is defined, in part through the prose of Ezra Pound. Representative examples of Imagist poetry are examined, particularly Hilda Doolittle's "Garden," "Sea Rose," and "Oread." Pound's early poem, "In a Station of the Metro," and Pound's comment on the poem's composition are studied as Imagist statements. His work with foreign languages, particularly Chinese, is considered in relation to Imagism in the poems "Jewel Stairs' Grievance" and "River Merchant's Wife: A Letter."
Lecture 9
The Poetry of Ezra Pound
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The Poetry of Ezra Pound
Overview: The lecture introduces the poetry of Ezra Pound. Tensions in Pound's personality and career are considered, particularly in terms of his relationships with other poets and his fascism and anti-capitalism. The poem "The Seafarer" is examined as a quintessentially Poundian project in its treatment and translation of poetic forms. The first Canto of his epic project, The Cantos, is analyzed as a meditation on the process of expressing and engaging with history and literary tradition.
Lecture 10
T.S. Eliot's Early Poetry
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T.S. Eliot's Early Poetry
Overview:The early poetry of T.S. Eliot is examined. Differences between Pound and Eliot, in particular the former's interest in translation versus the latter's in quotation, are suggested. Eliot's relationship to tradition is considered in his essay, "Tradition and the Individual Talent." The early poem, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is read, with emphasis on the poem's resistance to traditional forms and its complicated depiction of its speaker's fragmentary consciousness.
Lecture 11
T.S. Eliot's
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T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Overview: Professor Hammer's discussion of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" continues with particular attention paid to the poem's psychological, social, and generic elements. Eliot's place in literary criticism and his modernist poetics are considered in the essay "The Metaphysical Poets." The essay's critique of Romanticism serves as a bridge to Eliot's masterwork, The Waste Land, the first lines of which are presented and analyzed.
Lecture 12
T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land
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T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land
Overview: In this lecture, Professor Hammer considers the psycho-sexual aspects of T.S. Eliot's, The Waste Land. The landscape of the poem is described and its key figures introduced. Particular emphasis is placed on couples and scenes of dialogue with aspects of romantic or sexual distress. At the lecture's conclusion, a broad summation of the individual units of the poem is presented, and the editing process, in particular Ezra Pound's contributions, is reflected upon.
Lecture 13
Hart Crane's Early Poetry
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Hart Crane's Early Poetry
Overview: The early poetry of Hart Crane is presented and analyzed. Crane's self-characterization as a visionary, Romantic, and erotic poet, as well as the unique nature of his poetic project are considered as responses to Eliot's Waste Land and in particular the section "Death by Water." The poems "Legend," "Voyages," and "At Melville's Tomb" are read with particular attention to Crane's idiosyncratic use of language and neologism.
Lecture 14
Hart Crane's
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Hart Crane's "The Bridge"
Overview: Hart Crane's masterwork "The Bridge" is positioned as a response to the modernist aesthetics of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. The visionary and specifically American aspects of the epic are stressed. Crane's interest in myth and symbol, his inclusion and treatment of marginal figures, and his refiguring of the American hero are considered alongside his unique perspective on the role of imagination in the creation and shaping of history.
Lecture 15
Langston Hughes
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Langston Hughes
Overview: The poetry of Langston Hughes is considered as a representation of the African-American experience. The distinctive concerns of Hughes's poetic project are juxtaposed with the works of other modernists, such as Pound, Eliot, Frost, and Stevens. Hughes's interest in and innovative use of musical forms, such as blues and jazz, is explored with particular attention to their role in African-American culture, as well as their use by Hughes to forge an alternative to dominant modes of expression within the modernist canon.
Lecture 16
William Carlos Williams
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William Carlos Williams
Overview: The poetry of William Carlos Williams is presented and analyzed. His use of enjambment to surprise and transform is examined in order to highlight Williams's interest in depicting creative and cognitive processes. The Imagist qualities of much of Williams's poetry is considered alongside his engagement with modernist art--particularly the preoccupation of Duchamps and Cubist painters with the process of representing sensual perception. His free verse, which includes the innovative use of white space and carefully, visually balanced lines, establishes his position as one of the most visually-oriented poets in all of modernism.
Lecture 17
Marianne Moore
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Marianne Moore
Overview: The poetry of Marianne Moore is considered alongside its preoccupations with gender, American culture, and nature. The poem "A Grave" is presented as characteristic of the prose rhythms and discursive manner of Moore's poems, including their use of expository language without meter or rhyme. The poem "England" is read as a defense of American culture, in opposition to the Eurocentricism of Eliot, Pound, and other modernists. In the poem "An Octopus," Moore makes use of excerpts from pamphlets and other unusual prose sources to suggest that inspiration is not limited to any one voice or to literary models.
Lecture 18
Analysis of Marianne Moore's poems
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Analysis of Marianne Moore's poems
Overview: The previous lecture's examination of "The Octopus" is continued, focusing on Moore's innovative use of quotation. The poem "Silence" is read in connection with nineteenth-century poetry and the poet's personal reticence. Selections from Elizabeth Bishop's personal memoir of Moore are presented with special attention to Moore's relationships with other modernists and male poets in particular. The poem "To a Snail" is considered as a meditation on style and compression, and a reading of "The Paper Nautilus" rounds out a wider examination of the use and meaning of restraint in Moore's poetry.
Lecture 19
Wallace Stevens' works
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Wallace Stevens' works
Overview: Wallace Stevens is considered as an unapologetically Romantic poet of imagination. His search for meaning in a universe without religion in "Sunday Morning" is likened to Crane's energetic quest for meaning and symbol. In "The Poems of Our Climate," Stevens's desire to reduce poetry to essential terms, and then his countering resistance to this impulse, are explored. Finally, "The Man on the Dump" is considered as a typically Stevensian search for truth in specifically linguistic terms.
Lecture 20
Wallace Stevens'
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Wallace Stevens' "The Auroras of Autumn"
Overview: Marie Borroff guest-lectures on Wallace Stevens's late seasonal poem, "The Auroras of Autumn." The poem is considered sequentially, beginning with Stevens's mythology of the three serpents in section one and concluding with an examination of the beauty of the world, as Stevens conceives of it, in sections eight through ten. The poet's optimism and fundamental belief in the power of imagination to divest death of its power is repeatedly demonstrated. The poem's final sections are shown to exemplify characteristically Stevensian conceptions of peace and happiness in the face of death.
Lecture 21
Wallace Stevens' Late Poetry
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Wallace Stevens' Late Poetry
Overview: The late poetry of Wallace Stevens is presented and analyzed. Stevens's conception of the poet as reader and the world as a text to be read and translated is considered in "Large Red Man Reading" and "The Poem that Took the Place of a Mountain." The poet's preoccupation with natural cycles and sensory experience is exhibited in "The Plain Sense of Things." Finally, "A Primitive Like an Orb" is interpreted as Stevens's final vision of ceaseless change and transition in the world, in which the poet's verbal play participates.
Lecture 22
W.H. Auden's Early Poetry
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W.H. Auden's Early Poetry
Overview: This lecture presents the early poetry of W.H. Auden. In "From the Very First Coming Down," Auden's relationship to the reader is considered, as well as the role of economy, truth, and morality in his poetics. The political Auden is examined in "Spain" and "September 1, 1939," along with his later practice of revising controversial poems. Finally, his interest in traditional forms, his vision of love, and his characteristic perspectivism, are explored in "This Lunar Beauty" and "As I Walked Out One Evening."
Lecture 23
Analysis of W.H. Auden's poems
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Analysis of W.H. Auden's poems
Overview: In this second lecture on W.H. Auden, the relationship between art and suffering is considered in Auden's treatment of Brueghel's "Fall of Icarus" in the poem "Musée des Beaux Arts." Auden's reflections on the place of art in society are explored in the elegies "In Memory of W.B. Yeats" and "In Memory of Sigmund Freud," where Freud's "talking cure" is recast as a model for poetry-making. Finally, "In Praise of Limestone" is considered as a late allegorical vision of a secular, non-transcendental earthly paradise.
Lecture 24
Elizabeth Bishop's early poetry
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Elizabeth Bishop's early poetry
Overview: The early poetry of Elizabeth Bishop is discussed. The poet is positioned as an endpoint to modernism, and in her essay "Dimensions for a Novel," a response to Eliot's "Tradition and the Individual Talent," Bishop is shown to transfer Eliot's concept of "tradition" to the construction of literary works. The poem "The Map" is presented as an expression of Bishop's early thinking about geography and world-making. "The Gentleman of Shalott" is considered as a contemplation of the process of perception. Finally, "Sandpiper" is read as a meditation on the challenges of locating coherence in a shifting world.
Lecture 25
Elizabeth Bishop's modernist work
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Elizabeth Bishop's modernist work
Overview: In the final lecture of the course, Elizabeth Bishop's "Over 2,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance" is considered with an emphasis on Bishop's ambivalence towards the notion of home. The idea that modernists use poetry to do the work that religion no longer does is reflected upon, and connections are drawn between Bishop, Frost, Eliot, Stevens, and Crane. Bishop's "Visits to St. Elizabeth's" is considered as a formal rebuke to the ambitions of modernism alongside Auden's statement that "poetry makes nothing happen" but ultimately the two poets are shown to offer poetry as a solution to modern alienation in its capacity to renew human community through communication.