American Modernism module (EN42010)

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Module code


  • Level 4
  • Semester 1
  • English - School of Humanities
  • Coursework 100%


"Make it new" said Ezra Pound; Wallace Stevens said "It must be abstract"; William Carlos Williams wanted "no ideas but in things"; "play it cool" said Langston Hughes; but "a rose is a rose is a rose" for Gertrude Stein. This module (previously American Modernist Poetry) has been expanded for 2018/19 to include important examples of American modernist fiction of the early decades of the 20th century. As well as introducing you to some of the finest modern poets and novelists of America - many of whom spent their lives in Paris or London and others who stayed mainly in America, whether in Harlem or New Jersey - the module will consider the methods of publication, audiences, theoretical explanations and manifestos that flourished in the modernist period.

What makes these writers American? What makes their work modernist? Why does American modernist literature remain so influential and so controversial? Ezra Pound described the new poetry of the twentieth-century as "the dance of the intellect among words". This module will show you some of the steps.

This module includes Fieldwork or archive visits.


Dr Timothy Morris


  • Close reading 40%
  • Research essay 60%

Primary Reading

Individual volumes and collections will be recommended, but most of the poetry for this module is available in The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Volume D (1914-45). The fiction reading lists will be updated in the summer of 2018.

Indicative Secondary Texts

The following are recommended as a good general starting point:

  • Manifestos and statements by most module poets in Vassiliki Kolocotroni, Jane Goldman and Olga Taxidou (eds), Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents
  • Ezra Pound, Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, ed. T.S. Eliot
  • T.S. Eliot, Selected Essays
  • Walter Kalaidjian, The Cambridge Companion to American Modernism
  • Stan Smith, The Origins of Modernism
  • Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings, ed. Patricia Meyerowitz
  • Wallace Stevens, The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination
  • William Carlos Williams, In the American Grain: Essays
  • Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era
  • Marjorie Perloff, The Dance of the Intellect: Studies in the Poetry of the Pound Tradition
  • Richard Gray, American Poetry of the Twentieth Century
  • Emory Elliott, Lou Freitas Caton, Jeffrey Rhyne (eds), Aesthetics in a Multicultural Age
  • Michael Alexander, The Poetic Achievement of Ezra Pound
  • David Bradshaw, A Concise Companion to Modernism
  • Jane Goldman, Modernism, 1910-1945: Image to Apocalypse
  • Edward Larrissy, Reading Twentieth-Century Poetry
  • Michael Levenson (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Modernism
  • Tim Morris, Wallace Stevens: Poetry and Criticism
  • Peter Nicholls, Modernisms: A Literary Guide
  • Peter Jones (ed.), Imagist Poetry

Access the online reading list system


This module is available on following courses: