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SEL3386 : Modernist Poetry: Pound to the Beats

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • 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


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.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion140:0040:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading180:0080:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching122:0024:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork14:004:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity110:0010:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study130:0030:00N/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.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M401500-word close reading exercise OR creative exercise
Essay2A602500-word comparative and critical essay
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The mid-module assignment intends to develop students' understanding of poetic form and creativity, through either a close reading of a particular poem or a creative exercise.

The 2500-word essay encourages students to develop their close-reading skills further by way of a comparative reading of poems that engages more deeply with the critical and historical backdrop to modernist poetry.

Reading Lists