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The Stuff of Poetry: 1900—present - ENG00107H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Daniel Matore
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

Something very strange happened to poetry over the course of the last century. Lines and stanzas—the very stuff it is supposed to be made from—exploded, crumbled, or evaporated. Hieroglyphs, neon signs, musical notation, photographs, playing cards, maps, and geometrical oddities began to take their place or jostle for room. Unruly materials and alien shapes started to take over the printed page.

How does a sonnet become a multimedia textual behemoth that cannibalises art, music, advertising, or videography? This module will chart the history of this transformation through British and American, African-American, and French Caribbean poetry. We’ll range from the modernist epic of Ezra Pound’s Cantos and the psychogeography of Hope Mirrlees’s Paris: A Poem to the prose poetry of Aimé Césaire and Geoffrey Hill to postwar and contemporary experiments with typography, protest, and identity in the verse of Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, and Claudia Rankine. We’ll investigate free verse, rhythm, typography, prose poetry, printing, and the material text. But we’ll also confront how literary forms and materials are entangled in music, advertising, fascism, American politics, nationhood, and identity.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aim of this module is to equip you with an advanced understanding of avant-garde and experimental poetry from 1900 to the present day.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with Anglo-American, African-American, and Francophone poetry.

  2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with modernist, postwar and contemporary poetics.

  3. Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields dealing with poetics, materiality, politics, and literary form.

  4. Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

  • You will be given the opportunity to submit a 1000 word formative essay for the module, which can feed into the 3000 word summative essay submitted at the end of the module.

  • You will submit your essay to a Google Folder. It will be annotated and returned to you by your tutor within two weeks. Feedback on the essay will be uploaded to eVision.

  • Your summative essay is submitted via the VLE by 12noon on Monday of week 1 of the following term. Feedback on your summative essay will be uploaded to eVision to meet the University’s marking deadlines


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours

  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

Ezra Pound, The Cantos (1917[-1968])

Hope Mirrlees, Paris: A Poem (1920)

E.E. Cummings, Tulips and Chimneys (1923)

Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues (1926)

Aimé Césaire, Notebook of a Return to my Native Land (1939)

Charles Olson, The Maximus Poems (1960)

Allen Ginsberg, Kaddish and Other Poems (1961)

Geoffrey Hill, Mercian Hymns (1971)

Amiri Baraka, Funk Lore (1996)

Claudia Rankine, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric (2004)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.