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ENGL408: Modern Poetry and Poetics

Unit 8: Poetic Responses to World War II, the Holocaust, and the Global Nuclear Threat  

In this unit, you will take a look at World War II poetry, keeping in mind the representation of war and violence we encountered in the World War I poems so as to compare and contrast these eras of poetry and the approach to the war poem. Consider whether the WWII poems more accurately address the realities of war. The question to consider in this unit and one that modernist poets toward the end of the movement sought to address is: *“Are the horrors of the World Wars, multiple genocides, and threat of nuclear incineration of cities and potentially the entire planet so monumental that they can only become trivialized by being spoken about as expository narrative or re-interpreted as art?”*
 

In this unit, you will study poetry that responded to World War II, the Holocaust, Japanese-American internment, and the Atomic Age. This unit will introduce you to World War II poets like Randall Jarrell, Keith Douglas, and Karl Shapiro as well as Japanese internment poets like Violet Kazue de Cristoforo. Unit 8 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take you approximately 14 hours.

☐   Subunit 8.1: 4.75 hours

☐   Reading: 4 hours

☐   Web Media: 0.75 hours

☐   Subunit 8.2: 2.75 hours

☐   Subunit 8.3: 3.5 hours

☐   Subunit 8.4: 3 hours

Unit8 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you should be able to: - describe and analyze how World War II, the Holocaust, and the Atomic Age influenced Western culture and its poetic expression; - analyze how the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was expressed in poetry; and - identify prominent World War II poets, and characterize their styles and rhetorical aims.

8.1 The Holocaust: Representing the Unrepresentable   - Reading: Michigan Quarterly Review: Jay Ladin’s “‘After the End of the World’: Poetry and the Holocaust” Link: Michigan Quarterly Review: Jay Ladin’s “‘After the End of the World’: Poetry and the Holocaust” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read Ladin’s essay, “‘After the End of the World’:
Poetry and the Holocaust.”  
    
 As you read this essay, consider the following study questions and
writing prompt: What arguments does the author make about the
possibility of writing poetry after the Holocaust? What do you think
is the role of poetry in the face of genocide? Write a paragraph to
summarize your insights. Consider posting your paragraph to the
[ENGL408 Course Discussion
Board](http://forums.saylor.org/forum/english/ENGL408/), and respond
to other students’ posts.  
    
 Reading this essay, answering the questions above, and completing
the writing activity should take approximately 3 hours.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Michigan Quarterly Review: Alicia Ostriker’s “Holocaust Poetry: Another View” Link: Michigan Quarterly Review: Alicia Ostriker’s “Holocaust Poetry: Another View” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read Ostriker’s essay, “Holocaust Poetry: Another View.”
     
    As you read this essay, consider the following study questions: What is Ostriker's main argument? Do you find it compelling? Why, or why not? Do the quotes of poetry that she provides support her argument? Why, or why not?
     
    Reading this essay and answering the questions above should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: The University of Pennsylvania’s PennSound: “Charles Reznikoff Reads from Holocaust Link: The University of Pennsylvania’s PennSound: “Charles Reznikoff Reads from Holocaust (MP3)

    Instructions: Select the links to each audio clip as Reznikoff reads excerpts from Holocaust, starting from “2. Research I” through “Mass Graves 5.”
     
    As you listen to the recordings, consider the following study question: How are poetic representations different from prose historical representations of the Holocaust? Listening to these recordings, pausing to take notes, and answering the question above should take approximately 45 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.2 Japanese-American Internment Camp Poetry   8.2.1 Overview of the Japanese-American Internment Camps   - Reading: George Mason University’s History Matters: “Executive Order 9066: The President Authorizes Japanese Relocation” Link: George Mason University’s History Matters: “Executive Order 9066: The President Authorizes Japanese Relocation” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read the “Executive Order 9066” for historical
context about the relocation of Japanese-Americans to internment
camps.  
    
 Reading this text should take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyrights and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies: “Letters from the Japanese American Internment” Link: Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies: “Letters from the Japanese American Internment” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Study the Smithsonian’s learning module on Japanese-American internment camps. Click on the links from “Clara Breed” through “Legacies.” Take notes on the Americans’ attitudes toward internment as well as the historical context of this period to use later in consideration of poetry written during this time.
     
    Reading these webpages should take approximately 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.2.2 Wartime Kaikos (Free-Style Haikus)   - Reading: Modern American Poetry: Violet Kazue de Cristoforo’s “Pre-War Japanese American Haiku” Link: Modern American Poetry: Violet Kazue de Cristoforo’s “Pre-War Japanese American Haiku” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read Violet Kazue de Cristoforo’s essay on the
pre-war Japanese American Kaikos, or free-style Haikus.  
    
 As you read, consider the following study questions and writing
prompt: What are the major concerns of pre-war Japanese American
haikus? How does the historical information from subunit 8.2.1
inform your reading of these haikus? Write a paragraph or two
summarizing the themes and imagery in these poems. Consider posting
your paragraph to the [ENGL408 Course Discussion
Board](http://forums.saylor.org/forum/english/ENGL408/), and respond
to other students’ posts.  

 Reading this essay, answering the questions above, and completing
the writing activity should take approximately 45 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Lantern Review Blog: “Poetry in History: Japanese American Internment” Link: Lantern Review Blog: “Poetry in History: Japanese American Internment” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this essay to learn about the Japanese American poets in internment camps during World War II.
     
    Reading this essay should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Voices [Education Project]: World War II Poets: “Violet Kazue de Cristoforo” Link: Voices [Education Project]: World War II Poets: “Violet Kazue de Cristoforo” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this brief biography of Violet Kazue de Cristoforo as well as a few of her haiku poems.
     
    As you read, consider the following study question: How would you describe the relationship of these haikus to the experience of internment?

    Reading this article and answering the question above should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: NPR: Sasha Khokha’s “Haiku Poet Documented Life in Japanese Camps” Link: NPR: Sasha Khokha’s “Haiku Poet Documented Life in Japanese Camps” (Mp3)

    Instructions: Select the play tool to listen to the full story concerning the role of haikus in Japanese-American internment camps through NPR.org’s website.

    As you listen to this podcast, consider the following study question: What function did the haiku serve in the Japanese American internment camps?

    Listening to this recording, pausing to take notes, and answering the question above should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.3 WWII Soldier Poets   8.3.1 Randall Jarrell   - Reading: Western Michigan University: Randall Jarrell’s “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” Link: Western Michigan University: Randall Jarrell’s “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Jarrell’s poem, “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner.” As you read, consider the following study questions: What is the meaning of this poem? What does it say about the value of human life during war? What is Jarrell’s intention with the use of metaphor?

 Reading this poem and answering the questions above should take
approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Modern American Poetry: Randall Jarrell’s “The Refugees” Link: Modern American Poetry: Randall Jarrell’s “The Refugees” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read Jarrell’s poem, “The Refugees.” As you read, consider the following study questions: What are the poem’s key themes and ideas? How does this poem compare and contrast to the World War I poems you read in Unit 4?
     
    Reading this poem and answering the questions above should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.3.2 Keith Douglas   - Reading: Voices [Education Project]: The Poets of World War II: “Keith Douglas” Link: Voices [Education Project]: The Poets of World War II: “Keith Douglas” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read the brief biographical introduction. Then, study
all of the poems reproduced on this page by first reading them and
then listening to the recordings: “Vergissmeinnich,” “How to Kill,”
“Cairo Jag,” and “Simplify Me When I’m Dead.” To access the
recordings, follow the YouTube links. Examine the rhyme scheme of
each poem, and note the tone of these poems.  
    
 As you study these poems, consider the following study questions:
How do these poems represent the war experience? What are the
effects of their forms? How are they different from early modernist
and high modernist poems you studied in previous units?  
    
 Studying these poems, listening to the recordings, and answering
the questions above should take approximately 1 hour and 30
minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

8.3.3 Karl Shapiro   - Reading: Voices [Education Project]: The Poets of World War II: “Karl Shapiro” Link: Voices [Education Project]: The Poets of World War II: “Karl Shapiro” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the brief biographical note as well as Shapiro’s poems: “Elegy for a Dead Soldier” and “Epitaph.” Recall that an elegy is a poetic form that is a serious reflection and lament for the deceased.
 
Note both the differences and the similarities between Shapiro’s poems and the poems of both Randall Jarrell and Keith Douglas. Write a paragraph or two that analyzes the different approaches these poets take to address a similar subject. Consider posting your paragraph to the ENGL408 Course Discussion Board, and respond to other students’ posts.
 
Reading these texts and comparing and contrasting Shapiro’s poems to Jarrell and Douglas should take approximately 1 hour.

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

8.4 The Atom Bomb and Its Impact on Culture   - Reading: The Christian Science Monitor: Jim Regan’s “The Atomic Bomb in American Culture” Link: The Christian Science Monitor: Jim Regan’s “The Atomic Bomb in American Culture” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read *Jim Regan’s* article on the atom bomb and its
impact on culture.  
    
 As you read, consider the following study question: How would you
describe the impact that the atomic bomb had on American culture?  
    
 Reading this article and answering the question above should take
approximately 30 minutes.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: University of Pennsylvania: Professor Al Filreis’ “Cultural Aspects of Atomic Anxiety” Link: University of Pennsylvania: Professor Al Filreis’ “Cultural Aspects of Atomic Anxiety” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read Professor Filreis’ “Cultural Aspects of Atomic Anxiety.” Write a paragraph to summarize the most important ways in which the invention and use of the atomic bomb influenced European and American culture in a fatalistic manner. Consider posting your paragraph to the ENGL408 Course Discussion Board, and respond to other students’ posts.

    Reading this article and completing the writing activity should take approximately 1 hour.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: The Peace Pledge Project: Alison Fell’s “August 6, 1945” Link: The Peace Pledge Project: Alison Fell’s “August 6, 1945” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read Alison Fell’s poem, “August 6, 1945.” Make sure to also read the information, history, and ideas on this poem.

    Reading this poem should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: The Peace Pledge Project: Denise Levertov’s “Talk in the Dark” Link: The Peace Pledge Project: Denise Levertov’s “Talk in the Dark” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read Denise Levertov’s poem, “Talk in the Dark.”
     
    Consider the role of the poet in alerting fellow citizens about the end of the world as we know it. As you read the poems in this unit, consider the following study questions: How is artistic innovation influenced by political commitments? Should it be? Does literature have ethical responsibilities? Write a few paragraphs that responds to these questions and the poet’s role, using examples from Fell’s poem, Levertov’s poem, and other poems from this unit to support your ideas. Consider posting your written response to the ENGL408 Course Discussion Board, and respond to other students’ posts.
     
    Studying this poem and completing the writing activity should take approximately 1 hour.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

Unit 8 Assessment   - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 8 Assessment” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 8 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.

Final Exam   - Final Exam: The Saylor Foundation’s “ENGL408 Final Exam” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “ENGL408 Final Exam”

 Instructions: You must be logged into your Saylor Foundation School
account in order to access this exam. If you do not yet have an
account, you will be able to create one, free of charge, after
clicking the link.