About this Course
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Flexible deadlines

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Beginner Level

Beginner Level

Hours to complete

Approx. 58 hours to complete

Suggested: 7 hours/week...
Available languages

English

Subtitles: English...
100% online

100% online

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Flexible deadlines

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.
Beginner Level

Beginner Level

Hours to complete

Approx. 58 hours to complete

Suggested: 7 hours/week...
Available languages

English

Subtitles: English...

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

Week
1
Hours to complete
4 hours to complete

chapter 1.1 (week 1)—Whitman & Dickinson, two proto-modernists

<p><strong>Week 1 of ModPo 2018 runs from Saturday, September 8 at 9 AM through Sunday, September 16 at 9 AM.</strong> For those doing ModPo on their own or in small groups, the week 1 materials are open and available all year. </p><p>In this first week of our course, we'll encounter two 19th-century American poets whose quite different approaches to verse similarly challenged the official verse culture of the time. As a matter of form (but also of content), Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson were radicals. What sort of radicalism is this? In a way, this course is all about exploring expressions of that radicalism from Whitman and Dickinson to the present day. Such challenges to official verse culture (and often U.S. culture at large) present us with a lineage of ideas about art and expression, a tradition that can be outlined, mostly followed, somewhat traced. In this course, we follow, to the best of our ability — and given the limits of time — that tradition and try to make overall sense of it. </p><p>You will find that we do this one poem at a time. Here in week 1, we will explore Dickinson first, Whitman second, and then begin to sketch out the major differences between them, which, some say, amount to two opposite ends of the spectrum of poetic experimentalism and dissent in the nineteenth century. Which is to say: on the spectrum of traditional-to-experimental poetry, these two poets are on the same end (experimental); on the spectrum of experimentalism, their approaches can put them on opposite ends. In short, they offer us alternative poetic radicalisms, and their influences down the line (which we will explore in week 2) are both powerful but are also largely distinct. One question you'll be prepared to ask by the end of the course: Is the Dickinsonian or the Whitmanian tradition more ascendant and apt in today's experimental poetry? </p><p><strong>ASSIGNMENTS</strong>: During this week, there are two quizzes due (see below); there are no writing assignments or peer reviews due. There is a live webcast on Wednesday, September 12, 2018, at 3 PM (Philadelphia time).</p>...
Reading
9 videos (Total 164 min), 8 readings, 2 quizzes
Video9 videos
watch video on Dickinson's "Tell all the truth but tell it slant"15m
watch further discussion on "Tell all the truth"10m
watch video on Emily Dickinson's "The Brain within its Groove" (part 1)15m
watch video on Emily Dickinson's "The Brain within its Groove" (part 2)13m
watch video on Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" (part 1)24m
watch video on Walt Whitman's “Song of Myself” (part 2)21m
watch video on canto 47 of "Song of Myself"21m
watch video discussion of the Whitmanian and Dickinsonian modes18m
Reading8 readings
introduction to chapter 1, week 1: audio & transcript15m
read Emily Dickinson's “I dwell in Possibility”2m
listen to Al Filreis recite "I dwell in Possibility"1m
read Dickinson's "Tell all the truth but tell it slant"2m
read Dickinson's "The Brain within its Groove"2m
(optional) watch condensed video on Dickinson's "Brain within its Groove"10m
read sections 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 14, 47 & 52 of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”20m
listen to recordings of “Song of Myself”20m
Quiz2 practice exercises
on "Possibility" in Emily Dickinson's "I dwell in Possibility"2m
on the dash in Emily Dickinson’s “I dwell in Possibility”2m
Week
2
Hours to complete
6 hours to complete

chapter 1.2 (week 2)—Whitmanians & Dickinsonians

<p><b>Week 2 of ModPo 2018 runs from Sunday, September 16 at 9 AM through Sunday, September 23 at 9 AM. </b>For those doing ModPo on their own or in small groups, the week 2 materials are open and available all year.</p><p>During this week, the second half of chapter 1, we will read the work of two poets writing in the Whitmanian mode and three poets writing in the Dickinsonian mode. We will encounter our Whitmanians, William Carlos Williams and Allen Ginsberg, again later in the course—Williams as a modernist and Ginsberg as a Beat poet. The Whitman/Williams/Ginsberg connection is a strong one; Ginsberg wrote directly in response to both Whitman and Williams and saw the lineage as crucial to the development of his approach. Our Dickinsonians are more disparate in their response to Dickinson’s writing. Of the three—Lorine Niedecker, Cid Corman, and Rae Armantrout—only the last could be said to be a direct poetic descendant of Emily Dickinson's aesthetic. </p><p><b>ASSIGNMENTS:</b> During this week, there are two quizzes due and a writing assignment. Writing assignment #1 is open for submission between 9 AM on 9/17/18 and 9 AM on 9/23/18; after that, peer reviews will be submitted any time between 9 AM on 9/24/18 and 9 AM on 9/30/18. There is also a live webcast on Thursday, September 20, at noon (Philadelphia time).</p>...
Reading
9 videos (Total 132 min), 22 readings, 3 quizzes
Video9 videos
watch video on William Carlos Williams's "Danse Russe"19m
watch video on Allen Ginsberg's "A Supermarket in California"15m
watch video on Lorine Niedecker's "Grandfather Advised Me"13m
watch video on Lorine Niedecker's "You are my friend"12m
watch video on Lorine Niedecker's "Foreclosure"8m
watch video on Cid Corman's "It isnt for want"14m
watch video on Rae Armantrout's "The Way"21m
watch video on distinctions between “Dickinsonian” and “Whitmanian” proto-modernism11m
Reading22 readings
introduction to week 2: audio & transcript11m
read William Carlos Williams’s “Smell!”2m
listen to Williams perform “Smell!”1m
read/listen to "Smell!" in text-audio alignment1m
read Williams's "Danse Russe"2m
listen to Williams perform "Danse Russe"1m
read/listen to “Danse Russe” in text-audio alignment1m
read Allen Ginsberg's “A Supermarket in California”5m
listen to Ginsberg perform “A Supermarket in California”2m
read/listen to Ginsberg's “A Supermarket in California” as text-audio alignment2m
read Lorine Niedecker's “Grandfather advised me”2m
read Lorine Niedecker's “You are my friend”2m
read Lorine Niedecker's “Foreclosure”2m
listen to Lorine Niedecker perform “Foreclosure”1m
listen to a 30-minute discussion of “Foreclosure” (& another short poem)30m
read Cid Corman's "It isnt for want"2m
listen to Cid Corman perform “It isnt for want”1m
read Rae Armantrout's “The Way”2m
listen to Rae Armantrout perform “The Way”1m
listen to Rae Armantrout talk briefly about “The Way”5m
listen to PoemTalk discussion of “The Way”30m
essay assignment #110m
Quiz2 practice exercises
on Niedecker's "Grandfather advised me"2m
on Corman's "It isnt for want"2m
Week
3
Hours to complete
3 hours to complete

chapter 2.1 (week 3)—the rise of poetic modernism: imagism

<p><b>Week 3 of ModPo 2018 runs from Sunday, September 23 at 9 AM through Sunday, September 30 at 9 AM.</b> For those doing ModPo on their own or in small groups, the week 3 materials are open and available all year.</p><p>Modernism in poetry had many beginnings; imagism marks just one. But in a fast introduction, this brief but influential movement gives us a good place to start. Imagists had no use for late Victorian wordiness, flowery figuration and “beautiful” abstraction. They rejected such qualities through staunch assertions demanding concision, concentration, precise visuality and a sort of super-focused emotive objectivity. In this first of four sections of chapter 2, we will ask ourselves whether each poem meets the impossible or nearly impossible standards set out by imagist manifestos. If any given poem “fails” to meet such standards, it is by no means a sign of “bad poetry.” But one way to learn about the rise of poetic modernism is to make discernments based on the poets' own (momentary) programmatic demands. </p><p><b>ASSIGNMENTS:</b> During this week there are two quizzes due (see below). This is also the week in which peer reviews of writing assignment #1 are due. Peer reviews should be submitted any time between 9 AM on 9/24/18 and 9 AM on 9/30/18. There is also a live webcast on Wednesday, September 26 at 10 AM (Philadelphia time).</p>...
Reading
5 videos (Total 70 min), 12 readings, 1 quiz
Video5 videos
watch video on H.D.'s "Sea Poppies"13m
watch video on Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro"11m
watch video on Ezra Pound's "The Encounter"13m
watch further discussion on "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"9m
Reading12 readings
introduction to week 3: audio & transcript25m
imagism briefly defined5m
read H.D.'s "Sea Rose"5m
read H.D.'s "Sea Poppies"5m
read Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro"2m
read Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" as it appeared in Poetry magazine2m
read a selection of critical commentary on "In a Station of the Metro"10m
watch brief further discussion of Pound's "In a Station of the Metro"2m
read Ezra Pound's "The Encounter"5m
read Wallace Stevens's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"5m
listen to a discussion of Stevens's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"28m
essay #1: write reviews of others' essays10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
on "In a Station of the Metro"1m
Hours to complete
3 hours to complete

chapter 2.2 (week 3 cont.)—the rise of poetic modernism: Williams

Now in the second of four parts of our chapter on the rise of modernism—in the second part of week 3—we take a closer look at William Carlos Williams (1883-1963). We met Williams as a “Whitmanian” in chapter 1, the middle figure in a poetic line running from Whitman to Ginsberg. But that focus on him was a little misleading. The Williams of the late 1910s and 1920s was a poet fascinated by currents of formal experimentation—imagism, yes, but also Dadaism, cubism (especially drawing on innovations and painting) and a little later, objectivism. It's not the purpose of this course that we learn what all these “-isms” mean. Rather, let's start with a few poems by Williams that befit the imagist moment, and go from there. Quickly we'll find that Williams (always aesthetically restless) was interested in a writing that might capture the dynamism of its modern subject matter and was (mostly) willing to face problems created by traditional approaches to description and portraiture. When these conventions seemed to him to fail, he was prepared to include such failure in the poem itself—disclosing the troubled process of representation....
Reading
7 videos (Total 78 min), 21 readings, 1 quiz
Video7 videos
watch video on Williams's "Between Walls"9m
watch video on Williams’s “This Is Just to Say”12m
watch video on Williams's "The Red Wheelbarrow"12m
watch video discussion on Duchamp’s “Fountain”10m
watch video on Williams's "Portrait of a Lady"10m
on Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase"11m
Reading21 readings
read William Carlos Williams's "Lines"2m
read William Carlos Williams's "Between Walls"5m
listen to Williams reading "Between Walls"1m
read/listen with text-audio alignment to Williams's "Between Walls"1m
listen to PoemTalk discussion of "Between Walls"30m
read William Carlos Williams's "This Is Just to Say"5m
read Flossie Williams's reply to "This Is Just to Say"5m
listen to William Carlos Williams's explanation of “This Is Just to Say”2m
listen to five recordings of Williams reading "This Is Just to Say"5m
listen to five recordings of Williams reading “This Is Just to Say” as text-audio alignment5m
read William Carlos Williams's "The Red Wheelbarrow"5m
listen to four recordings of Williams reading “The Red Wheelbarrow”3m
listen to four recordings of Williams performing “The Red Wheelbarrow” as text-audio alignment3m
watch further discussion of Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow”6m
look at a photograph of Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” at the Philadephia Museum of Art5m
watch a museum-goer’s video of Duchamp’s “Fountain” on display at SFMoMA1m
read William Carlos Williams's, “The rose is obsolete”5m
listen to a 6-minute close reading of “The rose is obsolete”6m
read William Carlos Williams's, "Portrait of a Lady"5m
listen to 3 recordings of Williams performing “Portrait of a Lady”5m
look at Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase”5m
Quiz1 practice exercise
on Williams's "Between Walls"2m
Week
4
Hours to complete
4 hours to complete

chapter 2.3 (week 4)—the rise of poetic modernism: Stein

<p><b>Week 4 of ModPo 2018 runs from Sunday, September 30 at 9 AM through Sunday, October 7 at 9 AM. </b> For those doing ModPo on their own or in small groups, the week 4 materials are open and available all year.</p><p>Gertrude Stein's contribution to modernist poetry and poetics cannot be overstated, so now, in the third section of chapter 2, we turn to her, spending the better part of week 4 of our course on a selection of her supposedly “difficult” writings. The difficulty of deriving any sort of conventional semantic meaning from the short prose-poems that comprise Stein's Tender Buttons turns out for many readers to be a helpful inducement to look for other kinds of signifying. As we hope you'll see from the video discussions in this section, such difficulty need not excuse us from close reading. Stein's poems really can be interpreted. They might reject representation, but by no means do they turn away from reference. The hard work you do in this part of chapter 2 will be amply rewarded when we get to chapter 9. Stein is a particular influence on John Ashbery in chapter 8, but she is a crucial influence on nearly every poet we'll read in chapter 9. As a matter of fact, here in chapter 2 we have a chance to listen to Jackson Mac Low (a chapter 9 poet) talk about why he finds Stein's opaque and difficult Tender Buttons so nonetheless meaningful. And we hear Joan Retallack (another chapter 9 poet) paying homage to Stein's “Composition as Explanation.”</p><p><b>ASSIGNMENTS:</b> During this week there are two quizzes due (see below). There is also a writing assignment due. Writing assignment #2 should be submitted any time between 9 AM on 10/1/18 and 9 AM on 10/7/18; after that, peer reviews will be submitted any time between 9 AM on 10/8/18 and 9 AM on 10/14/18. <em>There is also a live webcast on Thursday, October 4, at 6:30 PM (local time) — we will be coming to you live from our annual "on the road" webcast, and we welcome ModPo’ers in or visiting the area to join us!</em></p> ...
Reading
7 videos (Total 108 min), 27 readings, 1 quiz
Video7 videos
watch further discussion on "A Long Dress"5m
watch video on Stein's "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"18m
watch video on "Water Raining" and "Malachite"17m
watch video on Stein's ideas about narrative, composition, repeating & nouns22m
watch video on Stein's "Let Us Describe"11m
watch video on Stein's "If I Told Him"20m
Reading27 readings
introduction to week 4: audio & transcript17m
read Stein's "A Long Dress" from Tender Buttons5m
read Marjorie Perloff's comment on Stein and in particular on "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"10m
read Gertrude Stein, "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass," from the "Objects" section of Tender Buttons5m
watch video of Laynie Browne discussing "A Carafe" and the "Objects" section of Tender Buttons6m
listen to Jackson Mac Low's 1978 performance of Stein's "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"3m
listen to Jackson Mac Low's close reading of "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"1m
watch video on Stein’s phrase “not unordered in not resembling”2m
read Stein's "Water Raining" and "Malachite" from Tender Buttons10m
watch Bob Perelman on Stein's use of the continuous present tense1m
watch Ron Silliman on how each Stein poem creates its own definition of reading1m
watch discussion of the pleasure to be gotten from Stein's “linguistic-ness”4m
read Stein on narrative5m
read Stein on the noun5m
read Stein on repetition5m
read Stein on composition5m
listen to Joan Retallack reading some propositions from Stein’s “Composition as Explanation”4m
condensed version of video on Stein's ideas about narrative, composition & nouns [alternative]10m
watch further discussion on the noun & loving repeating6m
read Gertrude Stein's "Let Us Describe"5m
read Stein’s “If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso”5m
listen to Stein perform “If I Told Him”4m
read/listen with text-audio alignment of Stein's "If I Told Him"4m
watch a dance choreographed to Stein's “If I Told Him”2m
read Ulla Dydo's prefatory comment on "If I Told Him"2m
listen to Marjorie Perloff speaking about Stein’s portraits2m
essay assignment #210m
Quiz1 practice exercise
on "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"2m
Hours to complete
4 hours to complete

chapter 2.4 (week 4 cont.)—the rise of poetic modernism: modernist edges

"The Baroness" (Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven) was way out there. But because she so intensely embodied modernist experimentalism, our effort to learn something about her life and writing is an apt way, in part, to end our brief introduction to poetic modernism from roughly 1912 to 1929. The three instances of modernist extremity we will encounter in chapter 2.4 are very different expressions of “High Modernism.” Well, the Baroness was certainly high on highballs when she wrote the poem we'll read — or rather, her language remarkably simulates a reeling discombobulation, such that its critique of 1920s-style commercialism (not in itself unusual at the time) has a very sharp edge. She was “New York Dada” epitomized, while Tristan Tzara's ideas about cutting up newspapers to form “personal” poems were, among his many other radical notions, crucial to the Dadaist import. And John Peale Bishop, with whom we will end our two weeks of chapter 2? Well, as you'll see, Bishop's is another story altogether; his sonnet sets us up for our approach to doubts about modernist antics as expressed by the poets of chapters 3, 4 and 5. ...
Reading
3 videos (Total 38 min), 11 readings, 2 quizzes
Video3 videos
watch video on Tristan Tzara's "To Make a Dadaist Poem"14m
watch video on Bishop's "A Recollection" and the sonnet in modernism8m
Reading11 readings
read Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven’s “A Dozen Cocktails—Please”5m
consult a scholarly digital edition of “A Dozen Cocktails—Please”5m
read Williams on the Baroness10m
listen to a brief bio of the Baroness2m
listen to a passage from Kenneth Rexroth’s account of the Baroness3m
read Tristan Tzara’s “To Make a Dadaist Poem”5m
re-read Tzara’s “To Make a Dadaist Poem” in an introduction to "chance operations"5m
watch a film-illustration of “To Make a Dadaist Poem”2m
read about the sonnet as a form7m
read William Carlos Williams on the sonnet2m
read John Peale Bishop, "A Recollection"5m
Quiz1 practice exercise
on Tzara's "To Make a Dadaist Poem"2m

Instructor

Avatar

Al Filreis

Kelly Professor, Dir. Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, Faculty Dir. Kelly Writers House

About University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania (commonly referred to as Penn) is a private university, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. A member of the Ivy League, Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States, and considers itself to be the first university in the United States with both undergraduate and graduate studies. ...

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Once you enroll for a Certificate, you’ll have access to all videos, quizzes, and programming assignments (if applicable). Peer review assignments can only be submitted and reviewed once your session has begun. If you choose to explore the course without purchasing, you may not be able to access certain assignments.

  • Yes, ModPo is entirely free. There are no charges for any aspect of the course.

  • No. You need not know anything about poetry in order to thrive in ModPo. So ModPo is for those who are new to poetry. It is for those who have perhaps always loved poetry but have not yet studied modern and/or experimental poetry. And it is also for poets and teachers who want to see what happens when a community of thousands comes together to talk about poems such folks already know well. In short, ModPo will work, in some way, for anyone and everyone! You will encounter people in ModPo who were once novices but are now participating in the course for a second, third or fourth time! We’re all in this together.

  • Yes, but our certificate is unique to ModPo, our own design. In order to receive the special ModPo certificate of completion, you must: 1) post a comment in at least one poem-specific discussion forum for each of ModPo's ten weekly sections; 2) write and submit all four writing assignments; 3) write and submit at least four peer reviews for each of the 4 assignments (at least 16 total); and 4) take and pass all quizzes (you can retake them until you pass).

  • The ModPo site is open all year, accessible to anyone who enrolls for free. Each year, though, we convene for an intense 10-week session from early September to late November. During that time, Al Filreis and his colleagues, the TAs and Community TAs (“mentors”) are all constantly available, and the discussion forums are quite active and your ModPo colleagues will respond to your questions and comments almost instantly. During this annual 10-week ModPo session or "symposium," the TAs each offer weekly office hours each. And we host our weekly live webcasts. During the rest of the year—ModPo’s “off season” or what ModPo’ers call “SloPo”—discussions continue intermittently and in small groups. During that time, too, new poems and new videos are added to ModPoPLUS and the Teacher Resource Center. You are welcome to finish the course in the off season if you could not complete it during the 10-week session. Teachers and their students are encouraged to use the site as part of a class. Reading groups are also encourage to convene around the ModPo materials. If you enroll in ModPo you will continue to be enrolled unless or until you decide to un-enroll. We hope you will continue to participate.

  • We're proud of the fame of our webcasts. They are quite innovative. During the 10-week September-to-November session of the course, we host a fully interactive live webcast, broadcasting from the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia each week. You can participate by calling in by phone, by leaving a voicemail prior to the live session, by tweeting, by posting to the ModPo discussion forum, by commenting in our Periscope feed, or by coming in person to the Writers House. If you miss any live webcast, you can watch the recording later. Participation in ModPo webcasts are not part of the requirements for the certificate, but those who have been part of them have found them helpful and fun.

  • Yes, it is a 10-week course.* But it is also an ongoing interpretive community. And it is an always open meeting place for people who want to talk about modern poetry. And it is an aid to teachers who are teaching poetry to their students. And it is an ever-expanding archive of resources (ModPoPLUS, the Teacher Resource Center, the Crowdsourced Close Readings videos).

    [* Indeed, ModPo is based on a course that has been taught by Al Filreis at the University of Pennsylvania since 1985.]

  • Al Filreis is Kelly Professor of English, Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House, Director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, Co-Director of PennSound, Publisher of “Jacket2” magazine—all at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has been a member of the faculty and administrator since 1985. He has published many essays on modern and contemporary American poetry, on the literary history of the 1930s and 1950s, on the literary politics of the Cold War, on the end of the lecture, and on digital humanities pedagogy. Among his books are “Modernism from Right to Left,” “Wallace Stevens and the Actual World,” and “Counter-Revolution of the Word: The Conservative Attack on Modern Poetry, 1945-60.“ He produces and hosts a monthly podcast/radio program, “PoemTalk,” co-sponsored by the Poetry Foundation. He has hosted three eminent writers for residencies each spring through the Kelly Writers House Fellows Program since 1999. He has won many teaching awards at Penn, was named Pennsylvania Professor of the Year in 2000 by the Carnegie Foundation, was named one of the Top Ten Tech Innovators in Higher Education for 2013 by the Chronicle of Higher Education, and received the first Faculty Innovation Prize from Coursera. He founded ModPo in 2012, one of the very first humanities MOOCs; he has been teaching a version of the ModPo course online since 1995.

More questions? Visit the Learner Help Center.