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LIT 44 — Great Modern and Contemporary Poems: 1880-2018

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jan 15—Mar 19
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Jan 28
Units: 2
Tuition: $480
Instructor(s): Nicholas Jenkins
Status: Open
7:00—8:50 pm
Jan 15—Mar 19
10 weeks
Drop By
Jan 28
2 Units
Nicholas Jenkins
Look at / what passes for the new. / You will not find it there but in / despised poems.
—William Carlos Williams, “Asphodel, that Greeny Flower”

Being in contact with any great poem can be a lifechanging experience. In this course, we will study some of the world’s great poetry of the last 140 years. We will not ignore context, biography, or history, but our focus will consistently be on close, careful, creative reading of the classic poems in front of us. Not bound by language or culture, we will read poems (in English) from several countries and literary traditions. Poets featured in the course will include Yeats, Stevens, Rilke, Akhmatova, Hughes, Brecht, Auden, Bishop, Larkin, Merrill, Plath, Walcott, and Graham. During part of each class session, students will have a chance to circulate their own favorites for general discussion.

We will talk about how to recognize different types of poems, how to evaluate linguistic patterning, how to judge tone and implication, what to take literally, and what to interpret metaphorically. The reading we do together should equip you to better understand poems that you might encounter anywhere, anytime. All that’s required is an absence of assumptions, a feeling for verbal beauty, and a love of language.

Nicholas Jenkins, Associate Professor of English, Stanford

Nicholas Jenkins is the primary investigator for Kindred Britain, described by The Economist as “an amazing digital humanities website that traces relations between 30,000 British people.” He has contributed to the London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times Book Review, the New Republic, and The New Yorker. Jenkins is the literary executor of the ballet impresario Lincoln Kirstein. He received a DPhil from the University of Oxford.