BROAD PURPOSE OF COURSE: A study of modern American and British poetry in the context of the literary and cultural trends that informed the movement.


  • Students will practice analytical discourse, critical reasoning, and problem-solving through close textual analysis and interpretation of Modern poetry.

  • Students will apply knowledge and experience in literary analysis to new texts.

  • Students will examine the conventions, evolution, and ideological contexts of Modern poetry.

  • Students will examine texts from a variety of critical and theoretical perspectives.

  • Students will conduct appropriate research and synthesize their own original ideas with those advanced by literary critics and other scholars.


  • 3 Essays 45% (15% each)

  • Group presentation and summaries  15%

  • Midterm exam 15%

  • Final exam 15%

  • In-class writings/ reading quizzes 10%


  • Jahan Ramazani, Richard Ellmann, Robert O’Clair, editors, The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, Vol. I, 3rded., 2003, ISBN: 9780393977912

  • Additional materials located on the course blog or distributed in handout form.


In-Class Writings/Reading Quizzes: We’ll be doing short in-class writings based on the assigned readings almost every day. In-class writings are a great way to warm-up the brain and get us thinking so that we’ll be able to better discuss a text as a class. They will also allow me to make sure that you are staying on top of the reading assignments. In-class writings cannot be made up, so if you are absent from class you will not get credit for the in-class writing that day. 

Three Essays: Over the course of the semester, you will complete a total of three essays that closely examine a small selection of poetry. The essays must be 4 pages typed in standard 12-point font, double-spaced. We’ll discuss textual analysis in class, and you will receive specific assignment sheets detailing the requirements for each essay several weeks before it is due. Each essay will pass through multiple drafts and receive feedback from me and/or your classmates. All drafts/ stages of the essay must be completed and turned in on time in order to receive credit for the final assignment, and you should aim for substantial revision between drafts. More details about the essays will be available on Canvas.

Group Research and Presentation: Throughout the semester, you will be working in groups to conduct research and present material to the class about the writers, the various modern movements, and the historical contexts surrounding them. You’ll receive a handout with details about the requirements of these presentations at the beginning of the semester and you’ll be asked to sign up for a topic that interests you. Each group will be expected to meet and work together outside of our regular class in order to put their presentations together.

Midterm and Final Exams: Our midterm and final exams will consist of short answer and essay questions based on the assigned literary texts and the literary terms we cover in class. You’ll be expected to take each in-class exam together with your peers. However, if you have a legitimate (and documented) reason to miss an exam, I will do my best to provide you with reasonable accommodation.

Participation and attendance: Class discussion is a major component of this course, and so both attendance and participation are extremely important. I expect you to arrive on time, awake and prepared with your textbook(s), syllabus, paper and pen, and an attentive attitude. Full participation means that you complete reading assignments on time, contribute to class and group discussions, and stay focused on the matter at hand. Missing more than 3 classes will negatively affect your grade. If you miss more than 6 classes for any reason, you will most likely fail the course. Arriving late, leaving early, or disrupting the class with texting or other inappropriate behavior may also count as an absence at my discretion. If you do miss class, it is your responsibility to check with a classmate to find out what you have missed. 

Late Work and Extensions: Work that is late will be penalized one letter grade for each class period that it is late. Work more than three class periods late will not be accepted. If you’re unable to come to class the day an assignment is due, it is your responsibility to make sure that I have the assignment before the start of the class in which it is due. You can always email me an essay or assignment, but it is up to you to make sure I have received it. (An essay that is late because of technology glitches is still late.) An extension on an assignment may be granted if you have a cause to request one and speak to me at least one week before the assignment is due.  


Note: All readings listed come from our text, The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, unless stated otherwise.

Week One

  • Intro to the class; Precursors to Modernism; Paul Laurence Dunbar, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Hardy (Links on Canvas)

Week Two

  • Yeats and Symbolism: Early Yeats, pp. 94-111, Symbolists (Links on Canvas)

Week Three

  • World War I Poetry: Siegfried Sassoon, pp. 387-392, Isaac Rosenberg, pp. 504-509, Wilfred Owen, pp. 523-535, Edward Thomas, pp. 230-234, Ivor Gurney, pp. 495-498

  • Due: Topic/ Proposal for Essay 1 (thesis workshop)

 Week Four

  • Imagism: Amy Lowell, pp. 198-201, HD, pp. 393-414, Ezra Pound, pp. 345-366

  • Due: Poem mark-ups for Essay 1 

Week Five

  • T.S. Eliot, pp. 460-487

  • Due: Draft of Essay 1 for peer review

 Week Six

  • Later Yeats, pp. 112-143

  • Due: Essay 1

Week Seven

  • Midterm review

  • Midterm exam

 Week Eight

  • Robert Frost, pp. 201-225

Week Nine

  • Marianne Moore, pp. 430-455, Edna St. Vincent Millay, pp. 509-514, Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy, pp. 268-283

  • Due: Poem mark-ups for Essay 2

Week Ten

  • William Carlos Williams, pp. 283-317, Wallace Stevens, pp. 235-251, e.e. cummings, pp. 545-556

  • Due: 3-page draft of Essay 2 for peer review

Week Eleven

  • Harlem Renaissance: James Weldon Johnson, pp. 171-176, Claude McKay, pp. 498-504, Jean Toomer, pp. 556-561

  • Due: Essay 2 

Week Twelve

  • Harlem Renaissance: Countee Cullen, pp. 726-731, Sterling Brown, pp. 669-684, Langston Hughes (pp. 684-705; “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” pp. 964-67), Melvin Tolson, pp. 590-604

Week Thirteen

  • Women of the Harlem Renaissance: handout on Canvas (Anne Spencer, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Angelina Weld Grimke, Gwendolyn Bennett, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Helene Johnson)

  • Due: Topic/ Proposal for Essay 3

Week Fourteen

  • Stevie Smith, pp. 705-715, W. H. Auden, pp. 783-816

  • Due: Mark-ups, Essay 3

 Week Fifteen

  • Heirs of modernism: Handout

  • Final review

  • Due: Essay 3