E30A SEMINAR QUESTIONS: MODULE III: LATE MODERNISM

Please note that students are required to take the initiative in choosing seminar presentations.  Given that we can comfortably get through at most two per session, I will not allow a mad rush towards the end to accommodate persons who have not thought about presenting earlier.

Eliot II: The Waste Land

  1. Explicate section I "The Burial of the Dead" of The Waste Land.
  2. Discuss the construction of sexuality in sections II "A Game of Chess" and III "The Fire Sermon" of The Wasteland.
  3. "Salvation tasted but not found."  Discuss with reference to sections IV "Death by Water" and V "What the Thunder Said" of The Waste Land.
  4. "A way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history."  In the light of this statement, discuss some of the following techniques employed by Eliot in The Wasteland: heteroglossia / the absence of a traditional narrative development of some kind or logically developed flow of thought / naturalistic detail / recurring leitmotifs / recondite allusions / the use of a mythological framework.
  5. Does The Waste Land constitute a single poem?
  6. What genre does The Waste Land belong to?  What evidence is there in the poem to support such a view?
  7. "The medium is the message" (Marshall McLuhan).  To what degree is this true of The Waste Land?
  8. In what ways is The Waste Land the archetypal Modernist poem?

Eliot III: The Waste Land Continued / the Late Religious Poems:

  1. "Allegories not only of his own religious conversion but of the route which all Christian penitents must follow." Discuss with reference to any of the Ariel Poems with which you are familiar.
  2. "The Wasteland represents the lowest point of Eliot’s despair." Comment upon this assessment of Eliot’s poetry as a whole.
  3. What aspects of Eliot’s poetry might be termed traditional and what aspects might be termed innovative?
Poetry of the 1930's: W. H. Auden, Dylan Thomas:

The Harlem Renaissance: Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes:

  1. General:
    1. Referring closely to chapter 5 "The Negro Renaissance" of Jean Wagner's Black Poets of the United States, discuss the importance of the Harlem or Negro Renaissance to the development of African American cultural nationalism.
    2. What insights into the experience of African Americans does the poetry of McKay, Cullen and Hughes provide?
    3. Through close reference to the poetry of McKay, Cullen or Hughes, list and discuss five of the principal characteristics of the poetry produced during this period.
    4. ‘Poetry of candid self-revelation’?  Should the poetry of McKay and Cullen be read as autobiographical?
  2. McKay:
    1. Write a biography of McKay, noting any events of particular importance to an understanding of his poetry.
  3. Cullen:
    1. Write a biography of Cullen, noting any events of particular importance to an understanding of his poetry.
  4. Hughes:
    1. Write a biography of Hughes, noting any events of particular importance to an understanding of his poetry.
    2. What is specifically 'African American' about Hughes's poetry?
    3. What role does music play in the poetry of Langston Hughes?
Modernism and After:
  1. What do you understand by the term 'Modernism'?
  2. Discuss those aspects of the work of TWO (2) poets studied this semester which you would describe as specifically ‘modernist.’
  3. "There are two trends in modern poetry: the impersonal and the highly personal." Discuss with reference to the work of TWO (2) poets studied this semester.
  4. "The dialectic of tradition and innovation is a powerful force informing the work of many of the Modernist poets." Discuss with reference to two such poets studied.