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(1.1) New Critics and Academic Poets

Note on Terms

- American Postmodernist Literature = a term for all writing after Modernism

- American Postmodernist Poetry = a term for all poetry written after the year 1945

New Critics

- mostly poet-teachers: Robert Penn Warren, Cleanth Brooks, John Crowe Ransom

- a traditional poetic school with conservative tastes

- educated in the classics, well-read in the 17th century Metaphysical poets

- wrote regular, metrical poetry, rhymed or unrhymed, often in iambic pentameter

- directly influenced the Academic Poets

> Understanding Poetry by Brooks and Warren (1938): an anthology with commentaries

> The New Critics by Ransom (1941): an anthology of critical essays, gave name to the New Critics

Academic Poets

- poets born in 1910s to 1920s, taught by Modernists, started publishing in 1940s to 1950s

- wrote difficult philosophical, intellectual, and sophisticated poetry, mostly rhymed with a fixed stanzaic pattern

- used a distant tone, suppressed emotions, mastered irony

- this mode of writing was prevailing in the period, free verse poetry was being neglected

William Meredith (b. 1919)

> "The Illiterate":

- uses the traditional form of the Petrarchan sonnet for the traditional concern with love

- does not rhyme very carefully, often uses identical words to produce absolute rhymes

- builds on the simile "I am like a man..."

- compares the inability of an illiterate man to read a letter to the inability of understanding and finding words for love

Howard Nemerov (1920 - 1991)

> "The Goose Fish":

- uses a careful form, employs rhymes, makes each stanza a closed unit in itself

- a detached narrator observes lover on the beach from a distance

- the beautiful atmosphere of romantic involvement is corrupted by the discovery of a dead fish

- contrasts the living lovers in encounter with the dead fish

- builds on the embarrassment of the lovers about the fish, develops philosophical ideas

- ironically ascribes an enormous importance to the dead fish

- uses humour, e.g. in describing the dead fish as a "rigid optimist"

Richard Wilbur (b. 1921)

> "The Pardon":

- an early poem in iambic pentameter with a fixed rhyme scheme of abab

- contrasts a boy's fear of the strangeness of death with an adult's respect paid to death

> "The Writer":

- a formally loose poem with no fixed feet pattern

- compares the writer's struggle for words and the struggle for life of a starling who gets entrapped in a room

- suggests that the both struggles are of equal vital importance

- applies marine terminology to the description of a house ("a chain hauled over a gunwale", "cargo", "lucky passage")

John Hollander (b. 1929)

> "Swan and Shadow":

- a visual poem in the vein of Guillaume Apollinaire or George Herbert

- gives a very careful outlines of a swan floating though dusk and its reflection in the water

- also a poem of philosophical contemplation

> "Variations on a Fragment by Trumbull Stickney":

- note: Trumbull Stickney was a minor 19th century American poet

- like Modernist poets uses an introductory quote which he further elaborates upon

- employs the rhyme scheme of aba throughout the whole poem, uses no other rhyming words

- unlike William Meredith's "The Illiterate" rhymes carefully with original rhymes

- develops parallel syntactic structures, uses the basic image of a river in a valley throughout the poem

- plays with words and meanings, creates analogies and contrasts opposites, develops associations

Základní údaje

  • Předmět

    North American Poetry 1945 - 2002.
  • Semestr

    Zimní semestr 2008/09.
  • Vyučující

    Jiří Flajšar.
  • Status

    Volitelný seminář pro III. blok.


Flajšar, Jiří. Dějiny americké poezie. Ústí nad Orlicí: Oftis, 2006.

Jařab, Josef. American Poetry and Poets of Four Centuries. Praha: SPN, 1989.

Jařab, Josef, ed. Dítě na skleníku. Praha: Odeon, 1989.


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