Rachel Blau DuPlessis
English 835: The 20th Century Long Poem

Temple University
English Department, Graduate Program
Spring 2003

English 835: The 20th Century Long Poem
Meeting Time: Wednesdays 1:00-4:00; Place: 1122 Anderson Hall
Instructor: Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Office Hours: Wednesdays before class, 11:30-12:30, and by appointment in 954 Anderson. Phone: 215-204-1810; e-mail: rdupless@temple.edu. Also phone 215-204-3014 (Director of Creative Writing). I will be in school on at least Wednesdays and Thursdays, probably Tuesdays as well.

Course description: The Modern and Contemporary American Long Poem. Some kind of taxonomy by example of mainly post-World War II United States long poems--late modernist and contemporary--with the goals of offering introductory readings of complex works (coverage), of acknowledging some under-read works along with some of the usual suspects (canon), of considering the poetics of the long poem, its textuality, and its cultural meanings in each case. In addition, we will survey some of the basic critical writings that take up the twentieth century long poem. The course will be a seminar, with student reports on the work's textures and on critical debate. Writing skills necessary for successful graduate work will be addressed and improved. Because of the length and difficulty of the readings, this course is not for the faint-hearted.

Primary Texts: All have been ordered at Temple Bookstore, Student Activities Center. In the order in which we will read them:
H.D., Trilogy. New Directions. (w. 1942-44)
Alice Notley, The Descent of Alette, Penguin. (1996)
Ezra Pound, A Draft of XXX Cantos. New Directions. (1917-1930, NOTE)
William Carlos Williams, Paterson. New Directions. (1946-1951; 1958)
Langston Hughes, Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. Knopf. Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951)
George Oppen, New Collected Poems. New Directions. (or old Collected Poems). "Of Being Numerous" (1968)
Lyn Hejinian, My Life. Sun & Moon. (1980; 1987)
Ron Silliman, What .The Figures (1988); plus the first pages of Tjanting (1981) (photocopy, pp. 11-34)
John Ashbery, Flow Chart. Knopf. (1991)

The taxonomy the course offers is:
1) Narrative/ Mythic Sequences-- H.D., Trilogy; Alice Notley, The Descent of Alette
2) Hyperspace/ Modern "Epics"-- Ezra Pound, A Draft of XXX Cantos; William Carlos Williams, Paterson
3) The Serial Poem--Langston Hughes, Montage of a Dream Deferred; George Oppen, Of Being Numerous
4) New Realist Procedurals--Ron Silliman, What (and part of Tjanting); Lyn Hejinian, My Life.
5) Odic Logbooks of Continuance--John Ashbery, Flow Chart

Necessary books and materials on reserve are listed below. I will also give several "guidelines"-through-lines in this course, how to read the criticism, and issues in poetry (the latter a familiar one for 790 students). I've done my best to select pertinent articles; if something changes, I will alter the syllabus. Some of these poets will have significant articles written about them in Dictionary of Literary Biography (various series); you would benefit from consulting them. The contemporary poets will have a website at http://wings.buffalo.edu/epc/authors/ [last name].

Disability: Disability accommodations and services: See the Temple University website at http://www.temple.edu/disability/

Participation: This is a graduate course. Missing even one class is cause for my serious, invasive concern. Lateness is unacceptable. Students will have several chances to do mini-oral reports. There will also be pauses for theoretical and literary-critical gatherings and summaries of articles and other materials. On these matters, further written instructions will be given. It is crucial that students be well prepared both for their mini-reports and for the reports or workshops on the critical literature, and be prepared to share certain written work that summarizes, synthesizes, and lays out the issues as presented in prior criticism. This professional responsibility the course will allow you to practice.
Writing:
1) Students will write up their mini-reports (close reading) as a 2-3 page working paper.
2) Students will report with summaries and/or critiques on critical articles or work in poetics, about 2 pages, single-spaced. These will be handed in. Further, all will write summaries for Jan 29 and February 26. Because of "time," some students will NOT report but will present written summaries to the class, and will act as interlocutor to the reporter.
3) Students will choose one poem on the syllabus to write about with a focused topic of their choosing. This paper must be a minimum of 15 pages; it can go up to a full-dress account, article-length (25-30 pp.). This depends on where you are in the program and what you need the paper for. M.A. students are required to submit a rough draft of this paper or some section of it. Ph.D. students may do this as well.
4) Students may also, with my permission, write this paper about other long poems that fall within this time frame. These might include T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets; Melvin Tolson, Libretto for the Republic of Liberia; Ezra Pound, The Pisan Cantos; Charles Olson, (a selection from) Maximus Poems; Louis Zukofsky (a selection from) "A"; Muriel Rukeyser, "The Book of the Dead," in U.S. 1; Susan Howe, The Liberties; Robert Creeley, Pieces; Robert Duncan, Passages (passim in the oeuvre); Jack Spicer [your choice of serial poem], Robin Blaser, Image-Nations; bpNichol, The Martyrology; Ron Silliman, Ketjak, Tjanting or other of The Alphabet; John Ashbery, Three Poems, Anne Waldman, Iovis, Wallace Stevens [various]. Since I can't list everything, please feel free to inquire about a specific topic if you have particular interests that this paper could fulfill.

N.B. This paper can be written in any discursive style, rhetoric, and arrangement of argument that you want, as long as it has good points, good close readings, a thesis, a position on the long poem, an analysis of this work in relation to positions on the long poem, and appropriate research in both criticism and poetics commented on explicitly in your paper (via summary and critique). Pick a topic, a discourse, and a length in relation to your intellectual-aesthetic needs and desires. To develop/discuss a topic, have a conference with me (required). To have more aid and comfort along the way, submit a rough draft of the whole or a part of the paper with a topics list fleshed out, making some comment on all the above points (required for all MA students). Final papers due 5 May. If you are working on Ashbery, it's due 8 May. During the exam period (May 8-May 13), I will schedule individual final conferences with you about your papers. If you need to write up a close reading before you deliver it, or if you want to do a close reading of someone already taken, you may. Please begin working on topics at the beginning of the course; do not wait until your particular poet of interest is discussed. You need to look ahead on the syllabus to get started.

Evaluation and Grading: You will be graded on your final paper, your in-class reports as oral presentations, your summaries in class and written, your general participation. The final paper counts the most, but to quantify percentages is not practical in graduate courses. In all graduate courses, along with the final grade, instructors are required to write an evaluative report on every student. This report goes in your file, which is kept by the program in which you are matriculated. You will receive a copy of these comments from me at the end of the semester, along with your grade. You have access to this part of your file (but not to your admissions packet with its confidential letters). If you are curious what other instructors have said about you, or if you want to check that all instructors have submitted these letters in a timely fashion (sometimes not a bad idea), see Elaina Cooley, the Creative Writing secretary, or Belinda-Wilson Hagins, Graduate Program. If you are receiving financial aid, it behooves you to check whether all letters have come in from the prior semester.

Furthermore, in all graduate courses, you have an opportunity to evaluate the instructor on University-mandated forms that are distributed in class at the end of the semester. (Your evaluations are not seen by the instructor until after grades are filed; instructor gets typed copies only.)

Necessary works on reserve on long poems in general and issues of design. I will assign specific topics in these and other readings. Responsibilities of every student: to have read, as completely as is plausible, the text for that week. In addition, to have read, when possible, the statements BY the particular poet and critics that are on reserve. In the case of books of letters--check in the index for the relevant materials. If something is not available, focus on what you have in hand, and don't get hyper. You can catch up at intervals in the semester.

On reserve means at Paley Library, Main Desk. I have made photocopies of the materials in a couple of course packs or put books on reserve. You are responsible for acquiring these as you go along in the course.

Course calendar, including due dates and special activities (one poetry reading)

Week 1. January 22. First class--orienting ourselves.
Reading: Ron Silliman, "I Wanted to Write Sentences: Decision Making in the American Longpoem," Sagetrieb 11. 2-3 (Spring & Fall 1992): 11-20. Read for the extrapolation of questions.

Handouts. Planning for the semester.

Questions that will continue to interest us, and may be taken as ground notes (though not all can be taken up at any one time) are:
1) definitional and modal-genre types of long poems (sequence, serial, epic, ode, life's work, etc.), how this "type" works with theme and poetics in each specific case; other genre issues
2) a particular work's use of time and space
3) syntax, line use and page space (poetry as organized segmentivities); diction, imagery, and their social meanings; "part/whole relationships"
4) questions of beginning and of telos or ending or" stopping"; attitudes toward "accumulation" and "completeness" (Silliman's terms)
5) authorial subjectivity in its social locations (including gender, class, race, religious culture, and others); what impact do these have on the production and construction of the text; is authorial subjectivity constructed in particular affiliative group formations?
6) reader's subjectivity in its social locations (including gender, class, race, religious culture and others); what impact do these have on the reception or consumption of the text? is reader subjectivity constructed in particular affiliative group formations?
7) the history of composition, if relevant; biographical insights brought to bear on the text; the question of "entrance" or portal poems; the issue of "recognition" that one is writing a long poem (and why); does poet's idea for the poem change over time?
8) the poetics of the work as enunciated by the poet, as articulated by authorial decision or by accident, and/or extrapolated by the reader
9) reading experience: "the phenomenological experience of the reader" (Silliman); "how to operate this book" is another approach to the same issue
10) the particulars of a text scrutinized by a close reading; the "textual surface"; part/whole relationships
11) bibliographic and textual history of this work, where particularly relevant; publishing history, textual history
12) nature of the cultural allusions or materials incorporated
13) the social or cultural work of this text; the assumptions it proposed, the knowledge it claims to offer.


Week 2. January 29
Toolbox.

In order to get a handle on these materials, we need to practice summarizing and extractive reading. We also need to practice critical reading. We will devote a class to these skills. Bring written summaries to class of three items, below.
Lynn Keller, "The Twentieth-Century Long Poem," in ed. Jay Parini, The Columbia History of American Poetry, 534-563. Read for general overview, NO written summary.
Smaro Kamboureli, "Preface," xiii-xv and "A Genre in the Present Tense," in Smaro Kamboureli, On the Edge of Genre: The Contemporary Canadian Long Poem, 45-104. Skim and summarize; ignore specifics, go for overview. Produce a brief written summary.
Peter Baker, "Introduction: Against Interiority," in Peter Baker, Obdurate Brilliance: Exeriority and the Modern Long Poem, 1-11. Read and summarize (written summary).
Joseph Riddel, "A Somewhat Polemical Introduction: The Elliptical Poem," Genre XI. 4 (Winter 1978). Special Issue: The Long Poem in the Twentieth Century. Summarize (written) with a sense of extracting vocabulary and problems. Compare to Baker.

I. Narrative/ Mythic Sequences
Week 3. February 5. . H.D., Trilogy (w. 1942-44)

Reporter: Critical Readings/ Readings in Poetics-on Hollenberg. ________
Reporter: Close Reading __________ On poetic texture. CHOOSE a page or two of the text. See questions above Qs 1-4, 9, 10. Make an explicit choice. Also consult "Poetry Questions" Handout.
Donna Krolik Hollenberg, ed., Between History and Poetry: The Letters of H.D. and Norman Holmes Pearson. University of Iowa Press, 1997. Look in index under Trilogy and under the individual titles (The Walls Do Not Fall, Tribute to the Angels, The Flowering of the Rod).
Norman Holmes Pearson, introduction to the earlier edition of Trilogy from New Directions.

This week people will sign up for conferences to be held next week.

Week 4. February 12. Alice Notley, The Descent of Alette. (1996).
Reporter: Critical Readings/ Readings in Poetics-the ones by Notley (all the required-how do these materials in poetics apply to Alette)______
Reporter: Close Reading__________ On poetic texture. CHOOSE a page or two of the text. See questions above Qs 1-4, 9, 10. Make an explicit choice. Also consult "Poetry Questions" Handout.
Alice Notley, "What Can be Learned from Dreams." Scarlet (1991). req
Alice Notley, "Epic and Women Poets." In Disembodied Poetics: Annals of the Jack Kerouac School. Ed. Anne Waldman and Andrew Schelling. University of New Mexico Press, 1994:103-109 req
Alice Notley, "Iovis Omnia Plena." Chicago Review 44 (1998): 117-129. req.
Alice Notley. "Alice Notley" Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, vol 27. rec.
Alice Notley. Dr. Williams' Heiresses. Tuumba 28, 1980. rec.

II. Modern Hyperspace "Epics"
Week 5. February 19. Ezra Pound, A Draft of XXX Cantos. (1917-1930 Note that, because of the non-availability of The Pisan Cantos in paperback, we are reading A Draft of XXX Cantos, the only book that does not fall in the post-WWII period.)
Reporter: Close Reading____________________ On poetic texture. CHOOSE a page or two of the text. See questions above Qs 1-4, 9, 10. Make an explicit choice. Also consult "Poetry Questions" Handout.
Reporter: Close Reading__________
These two people should consult, so they don't cover similar territory (however unlikely)

Also read Pound, "An Anthology of Statements by Ezra Pound on the Cantos." Compiled by William Cookson, A Guide to the Cantos of Ezra Pound. London: Croon Helm, 1985, xvi-xxiii.

Week 6. February 26. Ezra Pound, critical debates.
Reporter: Critical Readings__ALL students are signed up___
Everyone will summarize and critique at least one of the following four articles (written). All articles have to be read. Please consult (again) the handouts on these matters.
Ronald Bush, "Excavating the Ideological Fault Lines of Modernism: Editing Ezra Pound's Cantos." In George Bornsein, ed. Representing Modernist Texts: Editing as Interpretation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991: 67-98.
Michael Andre Bernstein, The Tale of the Tribe: Ezra Pound and the Modern Verse Epic. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980: Introduction and Chapter 1, "A Poem Including History": 3-74.
Bob Perelman, "Pound and the Language of Genius," The Trouble With Genius. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994: 28-87.
Jerome McGann, "The Cantos of Ezra Pound, the Truth in Contradiction," in Towards a Literature of Knowledge. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989: 96-128.

February 27, 8 PM, Temple Gallery (45 North 2nd Street). Ron Silliman reads. Required.

Week 7. March 5. William Carlos Williams, Paterson (1946-1951; 1958)
Reporter: Critical Readings/ Readings in Poetics ___________ Materials BY Williams for its bearing on this poem.
Reporter: Close Reading _____________________ On poetic texture. CHOOSE a page or two of the text. See questions above Qs 1-4, 9, 10. Make an explicit choice. Also consult "Poetry Questions" Handout.

William Carlos Williams, The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams. New York: New Directions,1951. Chapter 54: The Practice and Chapter 58: The Poem Paterson.

Spring Break, March 9-16

III. Seriality
Week 8. March 19.

Langston Hughes, Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951)
Reporter: Critical Readings/ Readings in Poetics ___________Seriality, two critical articles
Non-reporter____________ Distribution of summaries
Reporter: Close Reading__________ On poetic texture. CHOOSE a page or two of the text. See questions above Qs 1-4, 9, 10. Make an explicit choice. Also consult "Poetry Questions" Handout.

Joseph Conte, Unending Design: The Forms of Postmodern Poetry. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991. "Introduction": 1-44.
John Shoptaw, "Lyric Incorporated: The Serial Object" Sagetrieb 12 (1993): 105-24.

Week 9. March 26
George Oppen, "Of Being Numerous" (1968) and mini-handout on poetics.
Reporter: Critical Readings/ Readings in Poetics ___________two critical articles.
Non-reporter: distribution of summaries _______________
Reporter: Close Reading__________ On poetic texture. CHOOSE a page or two of the text. See questions above Qs 1-4, 9, 10. Make an explicit choice. Also consult "Poetry Questions" Handout.

Alan Golding, "George Oppen's Serial Poems [1988]." in ed. DuPlessis and Quartermain, The Objectivist Nexus: Essays in Cultural Poetics. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1999: 84-103.
Michael Davidson, "Palimtexts: George Oppen, Susan Howe, and the Material Text," in Ghostlier Demarcations: Modern Poetry and the Material Word. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997: 64-93.

Week 10. April 2
Interlude for thinking, discussion of the long poem to date, thinking with each other about papers to write, questions to ask. Further instructions may be given.


IV. New Realist Procedurals
Week 11. April 9.

Lyn Hejinian, My Life (1980; 1987) and mini-handout on poetics
Reporter: Critical Readings/ Readings in Poetics ________ Summary of three articles or parts.
Non-reporter-distribution of summaries_________
Reporter: Close Reading __________ On poetic texture. CHOOSE a page or two of the text. See questions above Qs 1-4, 9, 10. Make an explicit choice. Also consult "Poetry Questions" Handout.
Rosalind Krauss, introduction to Grid: Format and Image in 20th Century Art. And/or Krauss, "Grids," in The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths: 9-22 and 157-162
Marjorie Perloff, "The Return of the (Numerical) Repressed: From Free Verse to Procedural Play," in Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991:161-170
Juliana Spahr, "Resignifying Autobiography: Lyn Hejinian's My Life." American Literature 68, 1 (March 1996): 139-158.

NOTE: This is the latest time you can submit a rough draft or section of your final paper.

Week 12. April 16.
Ron Silliman, What (1998) ACTUALLY READ-LIT (What is unavailable) (The Alphabet project begins c. 1982; long poem projects c. 1974 with Ketjak) and the first pages of Tjanting.
Reporter: Critical Readings/ Readings in Poetics ________ discussion of article and interview BY Silliman
Reporter: Close Reading__________ On poetic texture. CHOOSE a page or two of the text. See questions above Qs 1-4, 9, 10. Make an explicit choice. Also consult "Poetry Questions" Handout.
Ron Silliman, "The New Sentence," The New Sentence. New York: Roof books, 1995: 63-93.
Silliman, Thomas Vogler, and Thomas Marshall, "e-mail interview" Quarry West 34 (1998). Special Issue: Ron Silliman and the Alphabet: 10-44. Personal copy

V. [Odic] Logbooks of Continuance
Week 13. April 23.

John Ashbery, Flow Chart (1991)

Reporter: Close Reading__________ On poetic texture. CHOOSE a page or two of the text. See questions above Qs 1-4, 9, 10. Make an explicit choice. Also consult "Poetry Questions" Handout.

Week 14. April 30 (Last Class).
Brief presentations of findings to date for papers. Little write-ups, or other presentation.
Final papers due 5 May. If you are working on Ashbery, due 8 May. During the exam period, I will schedule individual final conferences with you about your papers.

Rachel Blau DuPlessis EPC homepage