Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE An Introduction to Twentieth Century American Poetry

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course




The study-unit introduces students to twentieth-century American poetry. It also allows for more detailed study of the work of Wallace Stevens, and of selections from the work of later American poets.


The first lectures in the unit will review the importance of Robert Frost and Ezra Pound as dominant figures within twentieth-century American poetry; identify poets (e.g. William Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, Theodor Roethke, John Ashbery) whose work, though not selected for more detailed study in the course, has been particularly influential in shaping the development of twentieth-century American poetry and provide a brief review of their work; assess the sustained importance of formal experimentation within twentieth-century American poetry. Subsequent sessions will be devoted to more detailed study of the work of Wallace Stevens and Sylvia Plath. Towards the end of the unit there will be some discussion of the emergence of ‘postmodern’, ‘performance’, and ‘Language’ poetry.

Reading List

Selected Reading

- The poems for detailed study will be taken from:
Gioia, Dana, Mason, David and Schoerke, Meg, Twentieth-Century American Poetry (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2004).

- A less expensive, though much less comprehensive alternative to this volume is:
Moore, Geoffrey, ed., The Penguin Book of American Verse (London: Penguin, 2003).

Further Reading

- Altieri, Charles, The Art of Twentieth-Century American Poetry: Modernism and After (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006).
- Beach, Christopher, The Cambridge Introduction to Twentieth-Century American Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
- Blasing, Mutlu Konuk, American Poetry: The Rhetoric of Its Forms (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987).
- Faggen, Robert, The Cambridge Introduction to Robert Frost (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
- Fredman, Stephen, ed., A Concise Companion to Twentieth-Century American Poetry (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005).
- Gill, Jo, The Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
- Gioia, Dana, Mason, David and Schoerke, Meg, Twentieth-Century American Poetics (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2004).
- Gray, Richard, American Poetry of the Twentieth Century (London: Longman, 1990).
- MacGowan, Christopher, Twentieth-Century American Poetry (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004).
- Nadel, Ira B., The Cambridge Companion to Ezra Pound (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
- Rexroth, Kenneth, American Poetry in the Twentieth Century (New York: Seabury, 1973).
- Serio, John N., The Cambridge Companion to Wallace Stevens (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
- von Hallberg, Robert, American Poetry and Culture 1945-1980 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985).


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Examination (1 Hour) SEM2 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S James David Corby

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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.