ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH FALL 2000
ENGLISH 660:003: SPECIAL TOPICS IN AMEREICAN LITERATURE:
MARIANNE MOORE & MINA LOY
Through this web of similarities and differences one over-riding fact
emerges: both women’s very existence as radical poets was made possible
by the avant-garde culture of their youth--the 1910s, 20s, and 30s. As
artistic culture retrenched into the conservative 40s and 50s, neither
could sustain a viable public position as innovator. Loy, unable to conform
to anything, even avant-garde chic, abandoned poetry, lived obscurely in
post-World War II America, and devoted herself to the creation of transient
“trash art” assemblages. Moore abandoned not poetry but her radical position
among poets, accommodating both the forms and the content of her work to
conservative post-War culture--which included strict limits on the roles
of women. As one of the first poets affected by late-20th-century image-marketing,
she became, finally, a desiccated icon--the
To discuss even one of these poets in all her depth and breadth could absorb far more than a semester. To examine them together we will narrow the field in two ways, both suggested by the paragraphs above: first, we will concentrate on their early careers; second, we will focus on two characteristics they shared in those decades: radical form, particularly their negotiations between the concrete and the abstract, and a radical presentation of female experience, encoded in both content and form.
The first 2/3 of the semester will be an examination of selected poems by each poet and of recent criticism by a variety of scholars and poets. A typical week’s reading will consist of a group of poems, perhaps some prose by the poet, and two or three pieces of criticism. Secondary readings will emphasize issues of gender and authority in the poems (including the interactions of these issues with form) and relationships to techniques of the visual arts, particularly the nature and function of abstraction and of collage. Som poems will be assigned and discussed more than once, in different contexts. In the last few weeks of the semester you will each choose one poet to focus on, read a biography, and develop your ideas in a smaller discussion group. We will close the semester with one final discussion of each poet by the full class.
Format: The schedule is designed to provide more than the usual amount of time for you to write. For each poet, we will have four weeks of intensive reading and discussion, followed by a one-week break to provide time to think, breathe, and complete two short written projects (described below). Then, at the end of the semester, after two weeks of small-group discussion, you will produce two drafts of a final paper or creative project. After first drafts are completed you will critique papers by two of your peers, receive two critiques of your own draft, and have another week to revise your paper or project.
Here is the short version of the schedule for class discussions & assignments. A detailed schedule, with instructions for written assignments, is part of the “Instructor’s Notes” packet for sale at the Copy Shoppe in the Johnson Center.
Week 1 / Aug 29: Introduction
Weeks 2-5 / Sept 5, 12, 19, 26: Mina Loy
Week 6 / Oct 3: No Class, work on your Loy projects, due October 17.
NO CLASS OCT 10: FALL BREAK
Weeks 7-10 / Oct 17, 24, 31 & Nov. 7: Marianne Moore
Week 11 / Nov. 14: No Class, work on your Moore projects, due November
Weeks 12-13 / Nov 21-28: Break out into focus groups on a single poet, discuss biography & go into more depth on selected aspects of poems/criticism. Also, critique of rough drafts of the final paper. Conferences for those who want them re: the final paper
Week 14 / Dec 5 Final presentations of your final papers/projects.
Final paper or project due at the start of class December 5
These grade percentages are based on certain assumptions (such as class size, quality of written work received in the first round of papers, etc.). Percentages may change as class conditions warrant. Details on all assignments are included in the Instructor’s Notes packet from the Copy Shoppe.
Presentation / Discussion: Each of you will, at least once, make detailed preparation and lead the discussion on a certain aspect or aspects of the week’s reading. You will be working as part of a team responsible (or largely responsible) for that week’s discussion. In a typical week, the discussion will include three elements: synopsis of the assigned reading, application of and/or argument with the ideas of the assigned criticism, and close attention to a sizable portion of the assigned poems. Team members will divide responsibility & plan the format of the discussion.
Anthologies: For each poet, you will create a mini-anthology of ten poems & submit them with an introduction. Your selection may be designed as a) a general introduction to the poet, such as might be used in a course that included several poets; b) an introduction to one aspect of the poetry, such as might be used in a course on a certain topic (e.g. satire, gender, Modernism); or c) poems you would concentrate on if writing about this poet for your MFA exam.
Short Papers: For each poet you will write a 1500-1750 word paper. You may develop your topic in one of two ways--either a) write on two approaches to a single poem using different critical angles (at least one angle must be derived from criticism read for class); or b) write on two poems from one critical angle, derived from criticism read for class.
Final paper: All are required to complete a final paper of 5500-6000 words, OR a creative project of comparable size and scope. In most cases, your paper or project will focus on one of the poets from the course. If you want to write on both poets, or about one of our poets plus someone else, come talk to me about it.
Participation will be graded on a four-level scale: 10 points, 7 points, 5 points, 3 points, depending on both the quality and the consistency of your contributions to the class. Attendance at the full length of all class meetings is expected, as is thorough, thoughtful preparation for class discussions.
If you have a work schedule that will frequently make you late for class,
speak to me about it at the
Missing class: Let me know when you must miss class due to illness, catastrophe, or an unavoidable business trip. In case of the latter, you must turn in written work on time--which means in advance of your trip. If extraordinary circumstances cause you to miss class on the day you are scheduled to present to the class, you must turn in an additional paper of 1500-1700 words on the topic you were scheduled to present.
Late policy: Under extraordinary circumstances (severe or prolonged illness, death or critical illness in the family, car crash, etc.) written assignments may be accepted late with prior arrangement. “I’m really busy and I’m not going to get it done on time” is not an extraordinary circumstance, nor is a trip out of town that is not an emergency. Work handed in up to one week late without prior arrangement will be accepted but reduced by a full letter grade. Work handed in more than one week after the due date (without prior arrangement) will not be accepted.
Plagiarism: All work handed in for this course will be your own and is subject to the plagiarism policy of the university. If you have doubts about how to use your sources without plagiarizing, come talk to me about it -- or, if you prefer, take your questions to the Writing Center.
Books to Purchase:
Mina Loy: Lost Lunar Baedeker. Edited by Roger Conover. Noonday Press. 0374525072
Maeera Shreiber & Keith Tuma, editors. Mina Loy: Woman and Poet. National Poetry Foundation (Distributed by University Press of New England). 0943373433.
Carolyn Burke: Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy. University of
California Press. 0520210891.
Marianne Moore: Complete Poems. Penguin. 0140188517
Marianne Moore: Complete Prose. Penguin. 0140094369. NOTE: This book is out of print. Three copies will be at the Reserve Desk. Try to find your own copy at another library or from a used book seller.
Charles Molesworth: Marianne Moore: A Literary Life. Northeastern University Press. 1555531156. REQUIRED IF YOU FOCUS ON MOORE FOR THE LAST PART OF SEMESTER; OTHERWISE RECOMMENDED.
Adele Heller & Lois Rudnick: 1915: The Cultural Moment. Rutgers University Press. 0813517214. Eighteen essays, b/w illustrations, b/w photos & color plates. Provides an introduction to the cultural backdrop of the poets we will be studying. You should have read the first five sections of this book before the start of the semester. If you were unable to do so, please read it as soon as possible -- it’s fairly light reading. We will probably not have scheduled discussions of its contents, though specific questions may arise from it in relation to our poets.
Photocopies to purchase from the Copy Shoppe:
1) Reading packet of essays: includes criticism on both poets plus additional poems by Loy.
2) Instructor’s Notes includes a detailed schedule of readings, instructions for assignments, a complete bibliography for the course, & my notes on several subjects.
Material at the Reserve Desk, Johnson Center:
Reserve Desk materials are not complete as of this writing, but will include the complete text of Loy’s “Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose,” Moore’s Complete Prose, Moore’s Selected Letters, a few critical & historical essays that are recommended but not required, and material on the visual arts.