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Lecture 10

Lecture 10- Modernist Poetry.docx

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English (Arts)
ENGL 226
Kait Pinder

Lecture 10: Modernist Poetry Modernism • desire for concrete images with no superfluous words • not passive reading; requires work and attention to detail • during the height of high modernism, students started asked professors to read contemporary poetry • hard to pin down with one comprehensive definition • has no definitive start or end date, because of the influence it has had on all 20thC literature ◦ some say 1848 with Baudelaire ◦ some say turn of the century with philosophical ideas of the late 19th and 20th C • a movement of movements • (Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson, Sigmund Freud) ◦ Freud pointed to the ways in which we don't know ourselves ▪ mysteries of the human psyche ◦ Nietzsche's death of God ▪ the transvaluation of all values ▪ the rigid concepts of good and evil need to be overturned and redefined ▪ it is oppressive to our world ▪ if God is still alive, good is still the ultimate thing ◦ Bergson ideas about the experience of time as qualitative and non- lingering ▪ instead of it being part of a progression, our experience of time is felt and experienced ▪ we carry with us and always incorporate the past into the present and future • difficulty: use of different languages, oblique imagery, allusions to "high" culture ◦ high art, as opposed to mass culture ▪ Mad Men versus One Life to Live ▪ have to be trained in and develop a taste for high art • written around WWI time ◦ T.S. Eliot was about to get PhD from Harvard, but the war forced him to stay in England, where he committed himself fully to poetry • form: free verse, fragmentation, imagism, impersonality ◦ free verse (think Whitman) ▪ one of the defining features of modernist poetry ▪ Eliot: "no verse is ever free" ◦ impersonality ▪ Eliot's idea that a poem can be about emotion, but it is not about the poet's feelings • poems of the mind: emphasis on thinking, philosophical problems, process • international movement, cosmopolitan nature ◦ located in Europe to begin with ◦ heavily influenced by the Euro literary tradition (i.e. the reference to Dante) ◦ Pound found he couldn't write poetry in America ▪ wanted to escape Walt Whitman-like work • emphasis on the "new" ◦ kind of radical responses to the modern world ◦ revolutionary poetry ◦ responding to a shattered world view: the world is changing, so poetry is changing too • modernism emphasizes process, rather than end ◦ relates to the overwhelming feeling at the beginning of the 20thC that certain values were in need of adjustment ◦ want reader to work at it, trains them Modernism as Critique • difficulty in positioning democracy as a modernist ideal ◦ they were fascist and anti-semitic (Pound and Eliot) ◦ they were writing a difficult poetry that brought in high culture references, only for an elite audience to understand ▪ bafflement for the untrained reader • wanted to both represent the modern world in a modern way and critique it • focus on antagonism and cr
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