The word "literature" has different meanings depending on who is using it. It could be applied broadly to mean any symbolic record, encompassing everything from images and sculptures to letters.

lunes, 1 de octubre de 2012

Modern and Contemporary American Poetry @ FIX University

Dear FIX,

This is a long note. If you don’t have time to read it all, please know that these are the three main topics: 1) week 4 videos and intro will be available starting 11:59 PM eastern time tonight; 2) essay assignment #2, written during week 4, will be available starting at 11:50 PM eastern time tomorrow, as Sunday turns into Monday here; 3) brace yourselves for the experimentalism of Gertrude Stein during week 4.

Okay, here’s the full version of those points:

week 4 links tonight at midnight

All the syllabus links to week 4 will be updated at 11:59 PM eastern time on Saturday, September 29 (later today – 13 hours from the time I’m writing this). At the same time, as usual, the links to the coming week’s video discussions will also be available. These will be linked to the syllabus and viewable when you click on “video discussions” in the ModPo navigation bar at the left of every screen.

I will probably provide a link to the audio introduction to week 4 a few hours earlier. I will post that to the discussion forum, our Facebook group, and to twitter (@ModPoPenn). And when all links to week 4 materials are updated, that intro will of course be linked to the syllabus too. The week 4 quizzes (two of them) will go live also at 11:59 PM tonight eastern time.

essay assignment #2, starting tomorrow night at midnight

During week 4 you will also be writing and submitting essay assignment #2. It will be available beginning at 11:59 PM eastern time on Sunday night, September 30. The assignment will be more focused than the first essay. Many of you, I think, will appreciate the specific focus and guideline – aimed at encouraging you to teach yourself about the surprisingly large effect that small wording, grammar, and lineation choices can have in a poem. Others will long for the wide open days of assignment #1, in which you said whatever you wanted to say about a poem. We are asking you to limit your essay this time to 500 words – not longer, please!

You will have the week to write and submit the essay in the ‘writing assignments’ module (see left-side navigation bar). We will remind you of the deadline later in the week. If you submit an essay, you will be expected – during week 5 – to read and comment on at least four others’ essays. We collaboratively made that system work this past week, and I believe (with glitches fixed) we can do even better starting a week from now. As soon as the writing/submission period ends after week 4, you will be able to see the essay 2 rubric (simpler than the previous rubric), which we believe will be a helpful guide to those reading and reviewing the new essays.

week 4

During week 4 we continue chapter 2, an introduction to the rise of poetic modernism in the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century. During this week we push further to the extreme of experimental writing in the modernist mode. Gertrude Stein is a crucial figure in that story. Some find her “difficult” but, with hard work, ultimately exciting and fresh and crazily satisfying in the way frame-breakers can sometimes pull off. Some find her “impossible” and “nonsensical” and feel like giving up. Some see reading her for the first time as an opportunity to learn how a poet can “make sense” in a new and different way. If Pablo Picasso “made sense” in his cubist paintings in a way that was new and challenging, but was ultimately praised or at least accepted as working in the realm of art, then Gertrude Stein might be thought of as using words, rather than painted pigment, to do the same thing. Give that idea a try.

So a little more than half of week 4 is devoted to Stein. The other segment of week 4 takes a look at three instances of modernism pushed to the edges. First the Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven, an extremely eccentric person who literally embodied Dadaism in New York: we’ll read about her wild bohemian behavior and we’ll read a poem that is meant to be – and probably actually was – written by a very drunk person. What kind of sense can a drunk person make? Not much. Well, maybe… This is, in a sense, a rewriting of “I taste a liquor never brewed” with a hard modernist edge, by a woman who left the Dickinsonian room and went boldly into a bar and ordered a dozen cocktails, and then started talking to us. We’ll also look at a key figure in European Dadaism who had a great effect on U.S. poets, including, later, the Beats. This is Tristan Tzara (our only non-U.S. writer). Finally we’ll look at a poem by John Peale Bishop, as he grapples with traditional form in the age of High Modernism.

looking ahead to week 5

So in week 4 we push to the edges. In week 5 we will find four different ways to explore reactions against modernism – doubts about modernism’s challenge to traditional representation - coming from some poets who were sympathetic to modernism’s goals (such as the Harlem Renaissance poets and communist poets) but who doubted its social and ethical responsiveness; and from other poets who preferred traditional stanza forms. Week 5 moves very fast. We cover four short chapters in one week! But the number of poems is about the same as in other weeks, and the length of the videos in total is the same as always.

hang in

So week 4 – Gertrude Stein – fasten your seatbelts, summon your patience, your tolerance for what’s challenging and different, and have some fun with this unusual “how” of making meaning.

Best wishes from a cool Philly weekend day,



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