Module Catalogue 2021/22

SEL3386 : Modernist Poetry: Pound to the Beats

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Alex Niven
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This module explores the development of modernist poetry from the early-twentieth century to the heyday of the post-war Anglo-American counterculture. It begins with the poetic revolution initiated by Ezra Pound in the 1910s and concludes with the late modernism of the Beat Generation and the British Poetry Revival.

After looking at Imagism's break with poetic tradition, we will examine various currents in modernist verse: its origins in the late-Romantic avant-garde of the nineteenth century, its ambivalent relationship with English, American and regional identities, its use of music as inspiration and ideal, the often neglected centrality of women poets and the much-contested political backdrop. In the final weeks students will look closely at how these subjects found expression in Newcastle-upon-Tyne from the 1960s onwards, in the writing and activities of local poet Basil Bunting and his circle (a field trip/walking tour of Newcastle will supplement this part of the module).

The module aims to give students a thorough grounding in the techniques and historical evolution of twentieth-century modernist poetry. Particular emphasis will be placed on Poundian modernism as a project combining aesthetic radicalism with social and political engagement.

Outline Of Syllabus

Texts for study may include works by Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, H.D., William Carlos Williams, Basil Bunting, Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, George Oppen, Barry MacSweeney and Allen Ginsberg.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

On completion of the module, students will have:

Developed understanding of literary modernism in its poetic form as a seminal cultural and social movement of the twentieth century;

Acquired detailed knowledge of the biographical and textual history underlying the work of a series of poets associated with the modernist project;

Gained awareness of how modernist poetry developed and diverged across time;

Become acquainted with debates about modernist poetry and questions of political, national, social and sexual identity;

Gained familiarity with issues relating to modernist poetry as a genre informed and defined by interaction with other art forms, especially music, architecture and visual art.

Intended Skill Outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be able to:

Close-read modernist poems, drawing on different methods of textual analysis;

Engage with critical and theoretical debates about modernist poetry;

Assess the social significance of modernist poetry and its place in the wider modernist canon and the evolution of modern literature;

Draw connections between modernist poetry and other artistic and literary genres;

Assess the geographical basis of modernist poetry, especially its status as an international movement and its grounding in acts of Anglo-American cultural exchange.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion140:0040:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading180:0080:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:3016:30N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork15:305:30N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity111:0011:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery111:0011:00Guidance - online and optional
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study125:0025:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures introduce students to textual, biographical and critical debates surrounding texts, providing introductory readings of relevant poems, crucial pieces of information and an overall map to guide students in their independent study. The seminars build on the lectures, independent study and study group discussions, allowing students to reflect on their reading in a participatory group environment and hone their analytical skills by way of group close reading exercises.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2A1004000-word comparative and critical essay OR a creative exercise
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise2MPreparation for final piece of assessment
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The 4000-word essay encourages students to develop their close-reading skills by way of a comparative reading of poems that engages deeply with the critical and historical backdrop to modernist poetry.

The creative option encourages students to develop their critical and creative skills by way of an imitation study of the forms of poetry contained on the module.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2021/22 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2022/23 entry will be published here in early-April 2022. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.