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Mimesis and Materiality in 20th-Century US Poetry

Class at Faculty of Arts |


This course focuses on 20th century American poems about art and physical objects. Key considerations include: how poets try to make poetry out of art and how they try to make art out of poetry; the relationships between poetry, photography and the visual arts; how poetry combines textual and visual elements, page and picture; how poetry deals with reality; and the relationship between poetry, painting, photography, and physical objects. With a preference for modernist, post-modernist, post-avant, and post-truth American poetry, this course balances close readings of poems with critical and theoretical essays, paying particular attention to the intersections of description and depiction, text and life. Upon completion of the course, students will have a more comprehensive understanding of 20th century American poetry, specifically regarding the frequent overlaps and cross-currents of poetry, perception and the visuals arts.


Attendance and class participation 

Weekly short responses to readings 

Class presentation 

Final essay 

Optional 2nd essay for a ZK    

Attendance: You are required to attend all class meetings on time. 

Class presentation: Each student is required to deliver a five-minute presentation on a specific topic, poem, or poet. 

Final essay: Students will write a final essay of 2,000 words on one of the poets or topics we’ve covered in class. The subject will be discussed with the teacher in advance. Primary and secondary sources are required. The essay must be typed in Times New Roman 12—point font and double—spaced. Title the essay, number the pages, and staple them together in the top left corner. Late papers will not be accepted without a legitimate excuse. In addition, students wanting to produce a second graded essay for a ZK may do so: required length: 2,000—3,000 words; subjects to be discussed with the teacher—scholar."   

School Policies 

Course lecturers will fail any piece of work that they feel shows clear signs of having been plagiarized.   

Contact details

Course Schedule

Week 1: Against Representation: The Modern Turn

Week 2: Hart Crane, Chaplin and The Apples!

Week 3: William Carlos Williams: No Ideas But in Things

Week 4: Surrealists and Proletarians: The Avant-garde Circa 1930

Week 5: The Black Mountain School: The Objects of Words

Week 6: The “New American” Poetry: Aspirin, Lorca and Lemons

Week 7: Cold War Currents: Abstraction, Realism, Nationalism

Week 8: Poetry as Event: Happenings, Be-Ins, ‘60s Poetry

Week 9: Ekphrasis and Photography: 1970s Symbiosis

Week 10: Concrete and Minimal Poetry in the Late 20th Century

Week 11: Flarf and Conceptual Poetry: Turning into the 21st Century

Week 12: Instagram Poetry, Combine Texts