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Modernisms in American Poetry, Continued: T.S. Eliot and Wil

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Sarah Youree

on 24 September 2015

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Transcript of Modernisms in American Poetry, Continued: T.S. Eliot and Wil

Modernisms in American Poetry, Continued: T.S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams
Discussion of "Prufrock"
William Carlos Williams, 1883-1963
Williams was born in New Jersey, the oldest son of recent immigrant parents. His family spoke English, French, and Spanish at home.
Influenced by travel to South America and Europe and his mother's interest in painting, Williams began to write poetry.
Discussion Questions
T. S. Eliot 1888-1965
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, the youngest of seven children in a well-to-do family
Educated in private schools. Started Harvard in 1906 (graduating in 1910 with a BA and MA in English Literature).
Eliot's poetry was greatly influenced by the French symbolist movement, a departure from poetry in the British and American traditions.
He studied at the Sorbonne in Paris for a year, where he drafted "Prufrock."
He continued graduate studies at Harvard, and later Germany and England.
In England, Eliot met Ezra Pound, who urged him to publish "Prufrock" and to pursue more writing.
In 1922 Eliot published
The Waste Land
, which made him the most famous modernist poet.
In 1927, Eliot joined the Church of England and became a British citizen.
Eliot was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948.
Epigraph
What is happening in the
epigraph
(the short quoted passage that precedes the main work)? Who is speaking? Who is listening?
What is Eliot's purpose in including this epigraph? How does it inform the whole poem?
Title Matters
Eliot's original choice for the title of this poem was
"Prufrock among the Women."
Is this a more fitting title than the current one? Explain.
Why the name "Prufrock"? What sort of reaction do you have to this name? Associations? Sounds like?
Stream of Consciousness...
Stream of consciousness

was a technique developed by Eliot and other modernist writers.

What does this style of writing reveal about the speaker (Prufrock) that other styles may not?
Allusions Galore
In addition to the epigraph,
allusions
,

brief and (usually) indirect references to a person, place, thing, or idea of historical, cultural, literary, or political significance
, abound in "Prufrock."
Choose one allusion, and with help from the editor's footnote, explain its significance to the poem as a whole.
Big Picture
Identify a
theme
in this poem, and choose at least one piece of
textual evidence
to support that theme and explain it.
Do you think this poem (including its themes and style) appeals to modern readers in the same way it appealed to readers in the early 1900s? Why or why not?
Williams wanted to be a writer, but he didn't want to have to earn a living by writing, so he ended up becoming a successful medical doctor and poet.
Throughout his life, Williams developed friendships with other writers, including Ezra Pound, who encouraged his work.
Williams saw his own poetry as a counterpoint to T. S. Eliot's work -- he wanted poetry to be more authentically American, not so heavily influenced by European traditions.
Williams's poetry was heavily influenced by modern visual art, revealed in his "painterly handling of scenes or subjects" (Belasco and Johnson 617).
The Figure 5 in Gold
(1928)
by Charles Demuth
"The Great Figure"

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
firetruck
moving
tense
unheeded
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.
-- William Carlos Williams (1921)
"The Red Wheelbarrow"

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens
Say something about the following elements of this poem:
visual patterns (spacing on the page or imagery)
sound patterns
movement through geography
diction and syntax
cultural/historical meaning

What makes this poetry?
Is "The Red Wheelbarrow" uniquely American poetry? Why or why not?
Of Images and Objects
The poetic movement known as
imagism
is characterized by
direct treatment of the "thing" or object
the use of spare, concrete language
free verse (as opposed to conventional rhyme and meter in English language poetry)
William Carlos Williams was certainly influenced by this movement, but he said that he preferred to adhere to
"objectivism,"
writing,
"The poem being an object (like a symphony or a cubist painting) it must be the purpose of the poet to make of his words a new form: to invent, that is, an object consonant with his day."
"This Is Just to Say"
What do you think the relationship between the speaker and the "you" in the poem is?

What is the effect of the line lengths on the rhythm of this poem? On the meaning of the poem?

What is the effect of the description of how delicious the plums were?
"This Is Just To Say"
What makes this poetry?
Write your own poem, based on this one's form, about some small thing that you (or someone else, using the speaker's voice) is apologizing for.
For next time...
J. Alden Weir
Windham Village
(1913)
Sherwood Anderson
from
Winesburg, Ohio
Look for
elements of psychoanalysis (including repressed or thwarted sexuality)
impressionist influences on writing
poetic prose
"Afternoons & Coffeespoons" by Crash Test Dummies (1993)
Full transcript