Spring 2012 -
Graduate Course Description
Discipline and Number
7:00 PM - 9:45 PM
|Eliot and Williams
Description of Course:
"The Waste Land . . . . wiped out our world as if an atom bomb had been dropped upon it and our brave sallies into the unknown turned to dust. . . . .
I felt at once that it had set me back twenty years, and I'm sure it did. Critically, Eliot returned us to the classroom just at the moment when I felt that we were on the point of an escape to matters much closer to the essence of a new art form itself—rooted in the locality which should give it fruit. I knew at once that in certain ways I was most defeated. . . . I had to watch him carry my world off with him, the fool, to the enemy."
(The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams 174)
Eliot sniffed back that Williams was a poet "of some local interest, perhaps." Intensely personal as this feud was (on Williams's side), it points a major fissure in modernist poetry between, on one side, Pound and Eliot, whose work drew globally on past cultures, and, on the other, poets like Williams and Cummings whose poetry emphasized immediate experience, did not require footnotes and historical erudition to read, and, in Williams's case, was "rooted in the locality."
Ironically, at the time of The Waste Land, Williams had far more in common with Eliot than he realized. Both were profoundly affected by modernist art and philosophy of the preceding generation. Both were close friends of Ezra Pound, the lynchpin, propagandist, and chief dynamo of poetic innovation in their generation. And both were radically restructuring poetic form at the same time, though in different ways. Their real divergence came later.
This semester we shall study both sides of the fissure: contrasts and the parallels in the poetry and theory of two poets who were arguably the most influential of the 20th century.
(note changes from earlier listing)
T. S. Eliot, Complete Poems and Plays 1909-1950 (Harcourt)
---, Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, Frank Kermode, ed. (Harcourt)
Lyndall Gordon, T. S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life (Norton)
William Carlos Williams, The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, ed. MacGowan and Litz,
Vol. 1: 1909-1939 (New Directions)
Vol. 2: 1939-1962 "
---, The William Carlos Williams Reader , ed. M. L. Rosenthal (New Directions)
Herbert Leibowitz, Something Urgent I Have to Say to You": The Life and Works of William Carlos Williams (Farrar, Straus, Giroux)
Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:
Students will give an oral presentation (about 45 minutes) and write a research paper of about 15 pages. Class participation is essential.
paper = 60% of grade
oral report = 20%
class participation = 20%