Assignments

Each student in the class will be responsible for doing three papers for the course: one seminar paper, one response paper, and one factoid paper. To see the due dates for these assignments, view the calendar.

Class Report

The class report paper, also called the seminar paper, serves as the introduction or provocation for the beginning of a class discussion. Students are expected to make copies of their paper for everyone else and to lead the discussion.

Class Report Topics

seminar papers descriptions
Report A Help us read several of the early poems by Akhmatova. Consider their Acme-ist experimentalism and its antecedents.
Report B Help us to read the poems from Spring and All closely. Pay attention to details. Look especially at “On the Road to the Contagious Hospital” and consider the Eliot-question of objective correlation.
Report C Consider Wilfred Owen and the forms of his poems (Slant Rhyme, and so on) in the light of World War I; what’s the relation between the disillusionment of the military and civilian populations to the conduct of the War and Owen’s fracturing of traditional forms? (Look at Jon Stallworthy’s biography of Owen, or at the first volume of Pat Barker’s recent “Resurrection” trilogy).
Report D Help us to read the middle (prose) section of Life Studies. Why is it there? as prose “facts”? as necessary data we need to read the poems that follow? as gossip? as footnotes? Is the book less interesting because we need those facts, if we do?
Report E Help us to read the final poems in the book Life Studies, especially the “family” poems and “Skunk Hour.”
Report F Help us to read “Daddy.”
Report G Consider what background we might need to know, from John Felstiner’s book Translating Neruda. Consider whether biographical materials are in fact helpful, in approaching the early sections of the poem. You may also want to consider what Neruda learned from Walt Whitman. Look at his “Ode to Walt Whitman” and bring copies of that poem for everyone, if that choice seems useful [or early-surrealist poems, or other “Elemental Odes”].
Report H Consider the “Lady” and the vision at the end of the poem, with the Magi. Is this vision an answer to the questions she asked earlier in the sequence, or are these final sections (written much later than the opening books of the Trilogy) a distraction, an attempt to end the poem in a “visionary” way–?
Report I Help us to read “Crusoe in England”; consider biographical data and the history of Bishop’s work on the poem (it began as a poem about Darwin, the landscape seems to be the Galapagos, and so on.) Is the mostly about memory? How does Crusoe on “new” island (England) respond to the modern world? That is, is the poem psychological or cultural in its argument, finally – or can we tell?
Report J We need some facts. Lay out the history of Warsaw during the War. Consult Robert Hass’s essay on Milosz, in his book Twentieth Century Pleasures.
Report K What does Milosz think of America? – or, what cerebral work is involving in such thinking? Position him in America in l968, for instance, and help us to read his “American” poems, like “Throughout Our Lands.”
Report L Summarize and evaluate the arguments of Emily Grozholz’s essay on “moral authority” and poetry, in Milosz.

Response Papers

Response papers descriptions
Response A Help us through one section of Akhmatova’s poem “Requiem” and lay out the terms of the political situation under which it was composed. Consider the differences from the earlier Akhmatova aesthetic.
Response B Read Eliot’s essays “Hamlet and His Problem” and consider his theory of the “objective correlative”.
Response C Give a brief synopsis of Pound’s theories “Imagism”; prepare us to read some Imagist poems by Pound.
Response D Summarize how Lowell changed in the transition toward Life Studies (his readings on the West Coast with Ginsberg, his breakdown).
Response E Consider Marjorie Perloff’s argument about the sequence of the poems in Ariel (the original version and the version that Ted Hughes published under that title). You might want to bring in copies of Perloff’s tables of contents, to illustrate the difference. Is the book Plath meant to publish different in its largest arguments from the book Hughes published?
Response F Consider the argument of A. Alvarzez, from The Savage God, that Plath’s suicide ultimately was “accidental.” Lay out the facts, and consider if or why the question matters, or doesn’t.
Response G Help us to read the opening sections of Macchu Picchu; why are they here, if the point of the poem is to show us the cultural model of the Inca civilization?
Response H Is HD a “feminist” writer? Do you read the Trilogy as describing “female” cultural experience? You may want to compare with other Modernist takes on the story of the Trojan War – Joyce’s Ulysses, for instance, and Eliot’s account of the “Mythic Method” of Joyce.
Response I Track down the line/poem Crusoe can’t remember, through all those years. Why the joke? What’s the joke?
Response J The “Report” will lay out the history of Warsaw during the War, consulting Robert Hass’s essay on Milosz, in Twentieth Century Pleasures. On the basis of the facts, help us to read some of the poems from Rescue, such as “A Poor Christian.”
Response K Summarize Milosz’s arguments about poetry and intellectuals under totalitarianism, from The Captive Mind. I think it would be inefficient to summarize the different ‘cases,’ but a general overview might help.
Response L Bring in several poems by Bertold Brecht, and consider how he formally adapts Marxist concepts like alienation and class self-consciousness, into the ’lyric’ form – or does he?

Factoid Papers

Factoid papers descriptions
Factoid A Briefly lay out the facts of Boris Pasternak’s political encounters with Stalin, his Nobel Prize, and the fate of Dr. Zhivago in Russia. Bring copies of his poem “Hamlet” and discuss it briefly.
Factoid B Look at the chapter of Williams’ Autobiography in which he talks about the influence of Eliot’s “Waste Land.” What does he think of it, and why?
Factoid C Summarize the argument about Eliot and Pound in relation to anti-Semitism (c.f., James Wood, New Republic, July 1996; Anthony Julius, Eliot, Anti-semitism, and Literary Form.) Does it matter to our reading of those writers that they were/now seem to have been/anti-Semitic? Why or why not?
Factoid D Summarize the biographical data about Lowell as a teacher in a class that included Plath, Sexton, and W. D. Snodgrass: consider the origins of the “confessionalist” movement.
Factoid E Summarize The Bell Jar and consider its utility as a vehicle for understanding Ariel. Maybe it’s not useful – maybe in fact interest in the novel [which SP published under a pseudonym] is a displaced and morbid desire for gossip, intrusion, and voyeurism. Walk us through this thicket.
Factoid F Bring in some poems by Ted Hughes from his Birthday Letters in which he discusses his relation to Plath and her legacy. [“Rabbit Catcher” is a good choice; c.f. also the essay by Phyllis Rose.]
Factoid G Consider the final sections of Macchu Picchu. Does Neruda show us anything to be learned from that earlier civilization, or is the point of the last sections to show a discontinuity with those historical models?
Factoid H Summarize HD’s book on Freud and her experiences with Freud [consult Tribute to Freud/Writing on the Wall] Does this argument help us to read the Trilogy?
Factoid I Consider Bishop’s attitudes toward “womens’” poetry and women writers. Does it matter that the Moose is a “she”? You may want to consider Helen Vendler’s argument about “home” and strangeness in Bishop’s poems.
Factoid J Consider the two different translations of “The World” sequence – one which Milosz carefully worked out with his English-language translators, then his own, which he quietly substituted in his later Complete Poems, despite having the other completed. Make us see how those different translations are different interpretations of the poem, and why the differences matter.
Factoid K Why is Robinson Jeffers, of all poets, one of Milosz’ American favorites? Why is the affinity implausible, and how does Milosz explain it?
Factoid L Introduce us to Wislawa Szymborska. There’s not much criticism in English; consult a collection called Spoiling the Cannibals’ Fun. Reading one or two poems closely, consider WS’s relation to ‘systems’ of knowledge or systematic ways to organize experience; compare to Milosz’s.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

assignment Written Assignments