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ENGL408: Modern Poetry and Poetics

Unit 1: The Province of Modern Poetry   This course will attempt to snake its way chronologically through the poetry produced in the first half of the 20th century under the literary banner of modernism. In Unit 1, we will begin by defining modernism and reviewing the poetry and poets that preceded modern poetry in the Victorian era. With the objective of defining modernism in mind, we will explore what modern is NOT – that is, you will explore those 19th-century assumptions and conventions that modern poets sought to dissociate themselves from and the socio-historical context in which they had developed. This unit contains a sampler of the Victorian-era establishment-approved poets – Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, Matthew Arnold, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and John Greenleaf Whittier – that the modernist poets so self-consciously rebelled against. The modernist poets also rebelled against those societies that produced World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.
 
Fortunately, the most familiar American poet, Robert Frost, emerged at the beginning of the modernist movement. Frost is the poet that Professor Langdon Hammer first chooses to introduce in his “Modern Poetry” course at Yale University. *The unit will lead into an introduction of modern poets through a study of Robert Frost. Finally, this unit will conclude with a general discussion of characteristic modernist concerns as they tend to be defined by scholars.*

Unit 1 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take you approximately 12.5 hours.

☐    Subunit 1.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2: 7.25 hours
☐    Subunit 1.2.1: 1.75 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2.2: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 1.2.3: 0.75 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2.4: 2.25 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2.5: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.3: 3.75 hours 

Unit1 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you should be able to: - define the term modernism with regard to poetry; and - analyze representative examples of Victorian-era poetry’s genteel, chauvinistic, naturalistic and formalist qualities, and contrast these poems with qualities of modern poetry as exemplified by Robert Frost.

1.1 What Does the Term Modern Mean?   1.1.1 Modernism: Historical Background and Preliminary Definitions   - Reading: Sweet Briar College: Dr. Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe’s “The Roots of Modernism” Link: Sweet Briar College: Dr. Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe’s “The Roots of Modernism” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read “The Roots of Modernism,” which provides some
preliminary definitions of modernism and provides an overview of
transformations of Western culture that took place between the
Renaissance and the late 19<sup>th</sup> century.  
    
 As you read, consider the following study questions: How does Dr.
Witcombe define modernism? What does he identify as the most
important reasons for its emergence?  
    
 As you encounter study questions in this course, take some time to
write your answers down, to post your response to the [ENGL408
Course Discussion
Board](http://forums.saylor.org/forum/english/ENGL408/), and to
respond to others students’ posts.  

 Reading this text and answering the questions above should take
approximately 1 hour.  

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displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: The University of Texas at Austin: Harry Ransom Center’s Press Release: “Make It New: The Rise of Modernism Exhibition” Link: The University of Texas at Austin: Harry Ransom Center’s Press Release: “Make It New: The Rise of Modernism Exhibition” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this press release for an overview of the historical context of and the defining features of the modernist period.

    Reading this press release should take approximately 15 minutes.

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1.1.2 Differentiating Our Modernist Terminology   - Reading: Vanderbilt University: Dr. Bill Kupinse’s “Modernism, Modernization, Modernité, Modern: Some Definitions” Link: Vanderbilt University: Dr. Bill Kupinse’s “Modernism, Modernization, Modernité, Modern: Some Definitions” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read this text, which proposes various definitions of
modernism and modernity.  
    
 As you read, consider the following study questions: How do these
definitions differ from one another? Why do you think they differ?
Which of the definitions do you find most useful at this point in
the course?  
    
 Reading this text and answering the questions above should take
approximately 15 minutes.  

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1.2 A Victorian-Era Sampler: The Moderns Antithesis   1.2.1 Alfred, Lord Tennyson   - Reading: Victorian Web: Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” Link: Victorian Web: Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Tennyson’s poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” Note the chauvinistic, naturalistic, sentimental, and formalist attributes of this Victorian-era poem and the accompanying commentary. Most of these attributes become antithetical to modernist poets.

 Reading this poem should take approximately 30 minutes.  

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  • Reading: Victorian Web: Hamilton Beck’s “Explication Commentary” Link: Victorian Web: Hamilton Beck’s “Explication Commentary” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: After you have studied Tennyson’s poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” read Beck’s “Explication Commentary” from the paragraph beginning with “The Charge of the Light Brigade was certainly an example of bravado…” through the paragraph that begins with “Tennyson was not naïve in his praise of war…” Keep the themes of bravado and the glory of war in mind for Victorian poetry to contrast against the war poems you will read later in Units 4 and

    1.  
      Reading this commentary should take approximately 15 minutes.

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  • Reading: Internet Archive: Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “‘The Brook,’ ‘Break, Break, Break,’ ‘Sweet and Low,’ and ‘The Eagle’” Link: Internet Archive: Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “‘The Brook,’ ‘Break, Break, Break,’ ‘Sweet and Low,’ and ‘The Eagle’” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the following poems: “The Brook,” “Break, Break, Break,” “Sweet and Low,” and “The Eagle.” Consider how these poems compare and contrast to “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”
     
    Studying these poems should take approximately 1 hour.

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1.2.2 Rudyard Kipling   - Reading: Rudyard Kipling’s “My Father's Chair,” “The Secret of the Machines,” “A Song of the English,” and Alastair Wilson’s “Commentary on ‘A Song of the English’” Link: Rudyard Kipling’s “My Father's Chair,” (HTML) “The Secret of the Machines,” (HTML), “A Song of the English” (HTML), and Alastair Wilson’s “Commentary on ‘A Song of the English’” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read Kipling’s poems: “My Father’s Chair,” “The
Secret of the Machines,” and “A Song of the English.” Then, read the
accompanying commentary. Note Kipling's hyper-patriotism and belief
in the English empire's industrial and moral exceptionalism.  

 Studying these poems and commentary should take approximately 1
hour.  

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1.2.3 Matthew Arnold   - Reading: Victorian Web: Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” Link: Victorian Web: Matthew Arnold's “Dover Beach” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Arnold’s poem, “Dover Beach.” Note the qualities of the poem that make it particular to its time, such as nature imagery, sensory imagery, song-like rhythm, rhyme scheme, and others. “Dover Beach” is Arnold's fatalistic warning to hold onto the sweetness of a moment as long as possible before the imperial giant England, poised on the precipice of Dover's cliffs, is “swept [off] with confused alarms of struggle and flight / Where ignorant armies clash at night.”

 Reading this poem should take approximately 30 minutes.  

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  • Reading: Victorian Web: Julia Touche’s “Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’: A Commentary” Link: Victorian Web: Julia Touche’s “Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’: A Commentary” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: After you have studied the poem “Dover Beach,” read Julia Touche’s commentary on the poem’s structure, form, tone, and theme.
     
    Reading this commentary should take approximately 15 minutes.

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1.2.4 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow   - Reading: Poem Hunter: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “An April Day” Link: Poem Hunter: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “An April Day” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Longfellow’s poem, “An April Day.” This poem represents Longfellow’s appreciation of the natural, pastoral world.
 
Reading this poem should take approximately 30 minutes.

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  • Reading: University of Toronto’s Representative Poetry Online: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Landlord’s Tale: Paul Revere’s Ride” Link: University of Toronto’s Representative Poetry Online: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Landlord's Tale: Paul Revere’s Ride” (HTML)  

    Instructions: Read Longfellow’s poem, “The Landlord’s Tale.” This poem represents Longfellow’s nationalistic pride.
     
    Reading this poem should take approximately 45 minutes.

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  • Reading: The American Scholar: Jill Lepore’s “How Longfellow Woke the Dead” Link: The American Scholar: Jill Lepore’s “How Longfellow Woke the Dead” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this commentary on Longfellow’s infamous poem, “The Landlord’s Tale: Paul Revere’s Ride.”
     
    As you read, consider the following study questions: Do you agree with Lepore’s reading of Longfellow’s poem? Why, or why not? Explain your reasoning.
     
    Reading this text and answering the questions above should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
     
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1.2.5 John Greenleaf Whittier   - Reading: NNDB: “Biography of John Greenleaf Whittier” Link: NNDB: “Biography of John Greenleaf Whittier” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this biography for an introduction to the poet, John Greenleaf Whittier.

 Reading this text should take approximately 30 minutes.  

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  • Reading: North Shore Community College: John Greenleaf Whittier’s “Telling the Bees” Link: North Shore Community College: John Greenleaf Whittier’s “Telling the Bees” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read Whittier’s poem, “Telling the Bees.” Note the themes of this poem and the formal characteristics that are typical of Victorian poetry. Take notes on this poem as you will revisit it later in subunit 1.3 as a precursor to Robert Frost.
     
    Reading this poem should take approximately 30 minutes.

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  • Reading: The Guardian: Carol Rumens’ “Poem of the Week: ‘Telling the Bees’ by John Greenleaf Whittier” Link: The Guardian: Carol Rumens’ “Poem of the Week: ‘Telling the Bees’ by John Greenleaf Whittier” (HTML)  

    Instructions: Read this commentary on “Telling the Bees.” This reading should contextualize Whittier for you between the Scotch poet, Robert Burns, and Whittier's New England successor, Robert Frost.
     
    Reading this commentary should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
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1.3 Introduction to Modern Poetry and Robert Frost   - Lecture: Yale University: Professor Langdon Hammer’s “Lecture 1: Introduction to Modern Poetry” Link: Yale University: Professor Langdon Hammer’s “Lecture 1: Introduction to Modern Poetry” (Adobe Flash, QuickTime, HTML, Mp3)
 
Instructions: Watch the lecture titled “Introduction to Modern Poetry.” As you view the lecture, note how Professor Hammer identifies the goals of modernist poets and their means of breaking with traditional forms and conventions.
 
Write a paragraph about each poet discussed in this lecture. Consider posting your paragraph to the ENGL408 Course Discussion Board, and respond to other students’ posts.
 
Watching this lecture, pausing to take notes, and completing the writing activity above should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
 
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  • Reading: Poem Hunter: Robert Frost’s “Out, Out” and “Mowing” Link: Poem Hunter: Robert Frost’s “Out, Out” (HTML) and “Mowing” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read Robert Frost’s poems, “Out, Out” and “Mowing.” Note the applicable characteristics of modernist poetry that Professor Hammer describes in his lecture.
     
    As you read, consider the following study question and writing prompt: What effects does Frost try to achieve? Write a brief interpretation of each poem.
     
    Studying these poems, answering the question above, and completing the writing activity should take approximately 45 minutes.
     
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  • Lecture: Yale University: Professor Langdon Hammer’s “Lecture 2: Robert Frost” Link: Yale University: Professor Langdon Hammer’s “Lecture 2: Robert Frost” (Adobe Flash, QuickTime, HTML, Mp3)

    Instructions: Watch the lecture titled “Robert Frost.”
     
    As you view this lecture, consider the following study questions: How does Professor Hammer’s interpretation of the poems “Out, Out” and “Mowing” compare to your own? Revisit Whittier’s poem, “Telling the Bees.” How might this poem have influenced the American vernacular used by Frost?

    Watching this lecture, pausing to take notes, and answering the questions above should take you approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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Unit 1 Assessment   - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 1 Assessment” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 1 Assessment” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Consider the essay prompts for this assessment, and craft an essay founded on your readings from this unit. After writing your essay, use the “Rubric for Effectively Written College-Level Essays” (PDF) to self-evaluate your writing.
 
Tips and Suggestions: If you have an ePortfolio account, then it may be beneficial to upload or link to your essay from the Work Samples section of your profile. In combination with the Study Groups function or the ENGL408 Discussion Forum, using your ePortfolio profile may be a good way to receive peer feedback on your written work. If you do not yet have an ePortfolio account, you can create one here, free of charge.
 
Completing this assessment should take approximately 3 hours.