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Course Description

Within the first two stanzas of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" (1922), there are five different European languages, three references to historical events contributing to WWI, and no less than eight literary allusions, ranging from Christian holy books to medieval poetry to Romantic German opera. However, Eliot gives barely any assistance to his readers for recognizing these references or understanding why he makes them.

As a result, Modernist poetry (like Eliot's) has long been considered some of the most difficult literature in the English language, meant only for the most adept and keen readers. It also contains some of the most brilliant, beautiful, and influential works ever written. This course will help turn you into just such a reader and reveal to you the brilliance and beauty locked within these enigmatic poems. Along the way, you will also learn more about the history and politics of the early 20th century than you thought possible. Authors we will analyze include Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, Langston Hughes, T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings, and Marianne Moore.

Course Details

By completion of this course, successful students will be able to:

  • Identify poetic form (e.g. meter, rhyme, consonance and assonance) and how form relates to meaning in poetry
  • Describe the historical and political contexts of the late-19th/early-20th centuries in Europe and North America, and how these influenced poetry
  • Define how Modernism was influenced by previous artistic movements, and how later artworks were influenced by it
  • Identify most influential names and works of the Modernist period
  • Identify stylistic characteristics of various Modernist movements (e.g. Dadaism, Imagism, Harlem Renaissance)
  • Read and critique any poem like a pro!
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