The Muse of History

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The Muse of History

    The Muse of History

    English 551: Junior seminar

    MW 3:30-4:45 Oddfellows 206

Christopher Bakken Office: Oddfellows 230

    Office Hours: M/W 2-3pm; T/Th 9-11am Tel: 332 4338


     “History is the nightmare from which I am trying to awake”

    --James Joyce

    “…the fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world, in spite of History”

    --Derek Walcott

Czeslaw Milosz once claimed that “the problem of [his] time should be defined as Poetry and History.” This

    course will meditate upon that problem. For modern poets, is history a source of desperation or inspiration? Is it a pleasant dream, fecund in possible richness, for the poet to excavate at will? Or is history a nightmare from which they cannot awaken? Do poets exist outside history, or must they exist inside history, or in spite of it, confronting what Wallace Stevens calls the pressures of reality” with correspondent pressures from

    within? In short, how does poetry confront disaster? Furthermore, what is the role of poets in the modern and post-modern world—are they “unacknowledged legislators,” as Shelley would have it, or is the lyrical gesture essentially anti-social, self-involved and isolating? We will begin this course with the opening salvos of the twentieth century, with T.S. Eliot’s monument “The Waste Land,” so that we might consider the complicated Modernist inheritance left to American and European poets who write in the period after Modernism, in the shadow of two world wars, the Holocaust, and on the eve of globalization.

    Required Texts:

    Celan, Paul. Poems of Paul Celan. Persea Books: 089255276X

    Eliot, T.S.. The WasteLand. Norton Critical Editions. 0393974995

    Milosz, Czeslaw. New and Collected Poems. Ecco. 0060514485

     To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays. FS&G. 0374528594

    Patrikios, Titos. The Lions’ Gate. Truman State University Press. 1931112649

    Rich, Adrienne. The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems. Norton: 0393323951

     Bread, Blood and Poetry. Norton: 0393303977

    Ritsos, Yannis: Selected Poems 1938-1988. BOA Editions: 0918526671

    Walcott, Derek. Collected Poems. FS & G. 0374520259

     What the Twilight Says. FS&G. 0374526834

    Zagajewski, Adam.Without End. FS&G. 0374528616

     A Defense of Ardor. FS&G. 0374529884

    Plath, Sylvia. The Collected Poems. Harper Perennial. 0061558893



    Students are expected to keep up with the often heavy reading assignments for this seminar. Students who fail to do this might reasonably expect to fail the course. Since your last essay for this course will be supported by some research, and also because the historical background for some of our readings may be unfamiliar, students are also encouraged to seek out supporting critical materials (do not restrict yourself to online resources). Some of this may be left on reserve in the library.


    As a junior seminar in your major or minor, this course will afford you the opportunity to apply the skills you have obtained from your other courses in English; in particular, for this course you will probably write the longest and most thoroughly researched paper of your career here as an English major or minor. As such, the final essay for this course might well serve as a chapter in a senior project; it will ask carefully narrowed and appropriately complicated critical questions and will respond to those questions with diligent research and analytical intensity. The course is designed so that every other written assignment for this course will help to prepare you for this final essay. Your journal responses will ask you to polish your analytical skills on individual poems and essays. In preparation for the research component of your final essay, you will be thsubmitting an annotated bibliography. Final Papers Due: 7pm, Wednesday, Dec. 15.


    In-Class Participation:

    Since this is a seminar, your participation in our discussions should be considered mandatory.

    No formal presentation is required of you in this course. However, you will be assigned a single class date for which you will lead discussion. On this day, you will be asked to offer some prefatory comments about the readings for that class period and to pose some questions (pertinent to the reading) that we might mull over for the duration of that session. As the expert for that day, you will also be expected to contribute more than you usually might to the class discussion. To develop that expertise, you will need to do ample research on

    the author or poems under discussion, seeking out pertinent literary criticism and historical background materials so that you have an informed, complicated, and multi-faceted knowledge of that work. The day

    you are a discussion leader you will submit a list of at least five secondary sources you consulted, formatted as a Works Cited list in MLA style.

The following questions should guide you in preparing for this day:

    (a) what are the most important critical questions one must ask about this poet or this particular text

     (you’ll want to know what have other critics have asked about it)?

    (b) what formal considerations are important to this poet’s individual works under discussion?

    (c) what are the main difficulties of reading and interpreting this text? what are the important things to consider with regards to those difficulties?

    (d) how can we put this poem in historical context? does anything need to be defined or identified to

     understand the poems (facts of bibliography, biography, literary/historical allusions, vocabulary,




    Each student is required to have a three-ringed binder to be used as a journal exclusively for this course. The journal is designed to assist students in preparation for class discussions and essays and to facilitate communication between the student and teacher. Journals should be typed and carefully organized according to the syllabus; entries are required for every class meeting. The journal will help (and force) you to

    prepare for this course adequately and it will also present you with the opportunity to hone your close-reading skills, which will prove invaluable for your final essay. These journals must be completed before you arrive in

    class, since they may or may not be collected at the beginning of our discussions. Note: you are responsible

    for completed journals if you have been absent the previous class meeting/s.

     Individual entries

    Each journal entry should offer evidence of interactive reading in general and specific terms. (1) you should

    offer a general personal response to the entire reading assignment: how do you react to the assigned texts

    intellectually, critically, and emotionally? Which parts are most difficult for you? What critical questions emerge as you read or what did you discover in your supplementary reading? Which parts are you most interested in? Include anything that comprises your unique response to what you have read. You might include detailed notes, line-by-line analyses, comparisons, summaries, etc. Be sure to include questions about

    individual texts or general questions about the whole reading which you might like to bring up in class discussion (write out at least two). Since you may be asked to begin discussion by posing to the class one of your questions, you must have these questions ready when you arrive in class. (2) you should choose

    one poem or substantive excerpt from the reading assignment and write a condensed, but detailed close-reading of that text. You might try to begin by offering a kind of hypothesis about the text’s significance (to

    the larger work in which it is contained, or to the author’s work more broadly, or to the author’s sense of

    history) and continue by supporting that hypothesis with closely scrutinized textual analysis. Suggested minimum length of these close-readings: one page single-spaced.


     Journal & Class Participation 25%

     Paper One: Close Reading 15%

     Annotated Bibliography 10%

     Final Essay 50%


     Late Paper Policy

    This course will move fast, probably faster than you like. Assignments will follow other assignments very quickly; it is therefore very important that you turn assignments in on the day that they are due. Assignments will be considered late fifteen minutes after the beginning of class on the due date (e.g. at 3:45). For every day late, beginning with the first, you will receive a half-letter grade deduction on your grade (thus, a B paper that is handed in at 5pm on the due date will receive a B-). If you need an extension on an assignment, you must seek my approval well before the due date.


    In this junior seminar, there is no textbook to which you might retreat to make up for your absences. Much of the course material is created by the seminar participants in the classroom. For this reason, your attendance will be considered mandatory and more than four unexcused absences will adversely affect your

    grade for this course by as much as a full letter grade. Six or more unexcused absences will earn you an "F" for the course.

     Course Calendar


    30 Introduction, syllabi.


    1 Introduction, cont. Read Wallace Stevens: “Of Modern Poetry,” quotations from “The Noble Rider and

     the Sound of Words” & T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men.”

6 T.S. Eliot: from “Tradition and the Individual Talent” [114-119]; & Gardner [72-89]; read “The Waste

     Land” (I); skim “Sources” [pp. 29-66] & read Leavis [173-185]. Discussion leader:

    8 T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land” (II & III) & read Brooks [185-210]. Discussion leader:

13 T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land” (IV & V) & read Cowley, “The Dilemma…” [163-166]; Moody [240-

     246]. Discussion leader:

    15 Paul Celan: Introduction & poems: “Aspen tree,” “Sand from the Urns,” “In the Cherry Tree’s

     Branches,” “Night Ray,” “Corona,” “Death Fugue,” “Nocturnally Pouting,” “Shibboleth,” “Speak,

     You Also,” “Tenebrae,” “Snow-bed,” “There was earth inside them.”

    16 Andrew Hudgins reading, 8pm. Tillotson Room.

    20 Paul Celan: “So many consellations,” “Your/being beyond,” “On either hand,” “With all my

     thoughts,” “Psalm,” “Alchemical,” “Radix, Matrix,” “Thread suns,” “Etched away,” “Go blind,”

     “Black,” “Landscape,” “That which was written,” “Thick Easter smoke,” “Uprising of smoke…”

     Discussion leader:

    22 Yannis Ritsos. Biographical Note [405-406]; Kimon Friar, “The Short Poems of Yannis Ritsos”

     [407-423]; “Assistance” [6]; “The Hill” [8]; “The Meaning of Simplicity” [25];“Afternoon” [27];

     “We Are Waiting” [30]; “Ready” [36]; “Our Old Men” [38]; “Exile’s Journals” [41-50]; “Maturity”

     [89]; “Incense” [102]; “Perspective” [117]; “Under Oblivion” [120]; “Ancient Amphitheater” [122];

     “Process” [124]; “Need of Proof” [129].

27 Yannis Ritsos. Kimon Friar, “The Short Poems of Yannis Ritsos” [427-446]; “Displacement” [171];

     “The Suspect” [172]; “After the Ceremony” [175]; “With These Stones” [208]; “News Report” [212];

     “LastWill…” [213]; “Blood” [214]; “The Graves of our Ancestors” [217]; “After the Defeat” [218];

     “Memorial Service at Poros” [230]; “Unfamiliar Instrument” [292]; “1972” [347]; & “Heracles and

     Us” [TBD]. Discussion leader:

     Titos Patrikios. “Introduction” [xiii-xvii]. “The Lions’ Gate” [1]; “Latest News” [7]; “The Friends” [8]; 29

     “Open Borders” [9]; “Facing Up to the Sky” [29-38]; “Drafts on Makronissos” [41-43];

     “Monologue” [48]; “Verses, 1” [49]; “Habits of the Detainees” [50]; “Night in the Tent” [53];

     “While They Speak” [57]; “Carnival Night” [58]; “Flesh” [62]; “Verses, 2” [65]; “My Hometown”

     [70]; “Elements of Identity” [71]. Discussion leader:


    4 Paper One Due: Close Reading. Titos Patrikios. “Eight Years” [74]; “A Family Lunch” [75]; “Trip”

     [81]; “Letter” [82]; “Villa Adriana” [92]; “The Message” [93]; “Persistence of a City” [97];

     “Demonstration” [103]; “The Mountains” [104]; “Foreign Skies” [107]; “Oedipus’s Story” [112];

     “Allegory” [115]; “Verses, 3” [119]; “My Language” [125]; “Appropriation of Statues” [127]; “Ashes”

     [131] “Violence” [136]; “Of Pikes and Warriors” [142].

    6 No Class

18 Czeslaw Milosz, in To Begin Where I Am, read: “Introduction” [vii-xvi]; “Happiness” [20-26]; “Speaking

     of a Mammal” [202-217]; “Essay in Which the Author Confesses…” [235-245]; “Ruins and Poetry”

     [352-370]. Discussion leader:

    20 Csezlaw Milosz, from New and Collected Poems: “Hymn” [13]; “Encounter” [27]; “A Book in the Ruins”

     [28]; “Campo di Fiori” [33]; “A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto” [63], “In Warsaw” [75];

     “Dedication” [77]; “Mid-Twentieth Century Portrait” [88]; “Mittlebergheim,” [104]; “No More” [158];

     “What Once Was Great” [162]; “Greek Portrait” [166]; “Rivers Grow Small” [198]; “Incantation”

     [239]; “Ars Poetica?” [240]; “A Task” [259] “The View” [337]; “Distance” [357]; “In Common”

     [534]; “Late Ripeness” [747].

    21 Scott Russell Sanders reading, 8pm: Tillotson Room.

25 No Class.

    27 Milosz, cont.. Discussion leader


    1 Adam Zagajewski, in A Defense of Ardor, read: “A Defense of Ardor,” “The Shabby and the Sublime,”

     Poems: “Tongue” [65]; “New World” [67]; “To Go to Lvov” [79]; “We Know Everything” [89]; “A

     River” [92]; “Fire” [101]; “To…” [106]; “In the Past” [108]; “Don’t Allow….” [110]; “Without End”

     [119]; “The Generation” [121];]. Read Clare Cavanaugh: “Poetry and History:

    3 Adam Zagajewski, poems. “Reading Books” [132]; “A View of Krakow” [140]; “Lullaby” [147]; “Russia

     Comes into Poland” [164]; “Electric Elegy” [173]; “Watching Shoah…” [184]; “Canvas” [209];

     “Shell” [225]; “Refugees” [228]; “Degas: The Milliner’s Shop” [253]; “From Memory” [268]; “To See”

     [3]; “Speak Softly” [23]; “Smoke” [49]; “Try to Praise…” [60]. Discussion leader::

8 Adrienne Rich. From Blood, Bread and Poetry, read: “Split at the Root,” “Resisting Amnesia,” and “Blood,

     Bread and Poetry.” from The Fact of a Doorframe: “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” [4]. Discussion leader:

    10 Adrienne Rich, from The Fact of a Doorframe:: “In the Evening” [46]; “Jerusalem” [50]; “November 1968”

     [71]; “Study of History” [72]; “Trying to Talk with a Man” [93]; “From the Prison House” [96];

     “Dialogue” [100]; “Diving into the Wreck” [101]; “The Ninth Symphony…” [105]; “Rape” [105].

     “The Stranger” [TBD]. Discussion leader:

    11 Don Bogen & Elise Levine reading, 8pm. Tillitson Room, Cochran Hall

15 Three Ideas for a Final Paper Due. Adrienne Rich, poems. “Merced” [TBD]; “The Fact of a

     Doorframe” [131]; “Power” [135]; “For Memory” [173]; “Frame” [187]; “For the Record” [193];

     “North American Time” [197]; “What Kinds of Times are These” [253]; “In Those Years” [253].

    17 Sylvia Plath. “Conversation Among the Ruins” [21]; “Channel Crossing” [26]; “Crystal Gazer” [54];

     “November Graveyard” [56]; “Black Rook in Rainy Weather” [56]; “Hardcastle Crags” [62]; “All the

     Dead Dears” [70]; “The Disquieting Muses” [74]. Discussion Leader:

    22 Final Paper Topic & Rough Outline Due. Sylvia Plath. “The Beekeeper’s Daughter” [118]; “The

    Colossus” [129]; “Sleep in the Mohave Desert” [143]; “Parliament Hill Fields” [152]; “Blackberrying”

    [168]; Bee Poems [211-219]; “Daddy” [222]; “Lady Lazarus” [244]; “Wintering” [217].

    24 Thankgiving

29 Derek Walcott, from What the Twilight Says, read: “The Muse of History” & “The Antilles: Fragments of

     Epic Memory.” From Collected Poems: “Origins” [11]; “A Far Cry from Africa” [17]; Discussion



    1 Annotated Source Sample Due. Derek Walcott, “Homecoming: Anse La Raye” [127]; “Sea Grapes”

     [297]; “New World” [300]. “Sainte Lucie” [309]; “The Schooner Flight” [345-361].

6 Walcott, cont. Discussion Leader:

    8 Presentation of Paper Topics to Class. . Annotated Bibliographies Due.

     thFinal Journal Due. Dec. 10, 12pm. thFinal Papers Due: 7pm, Wednesday, Dec. 15.

    Recommended Supporting Materials


    Longenbach, James. Modern Poetry after Modernism. New York: Oxford University

    Press, 1997.

    Celan thBernstein, Michael. Five Portraits: Modernity and Imagination in 20-century German Writing. Evanston:

     Northwestern UP, 2000.

    Celan, Paul. Collected Prose. Riverdale-on-Hudson: Sheep Meadow Press, 1986. Colin, Amy. Paul Celan: Holograms of Darkness. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1991. Del Caro, Adrian and Janet Ward, Eds. German Studies in the Post-Holocaust Age. Boulder: Univ. Press of

     Colorado, 2000.

    Derrida, Jacques. Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan. New York: Fordam University

     Press, 2005.

    Felstiner, John. Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew. New Haven: Yale UP, 1995.

    Fioretos, Aris. Ed. Word Traces: Readings of Paul Celan. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1994.


    Brooker, Jewel. Reading the Waste Land: Modernism and the Limits of Interpretation. Amherst: Univ. of

     Mass. Press, 1990.

    Cuddy, Lois. Ed. Critical Essays on T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Boston: Hall, 1991.

    Gish, Nancy. The Waste Land: A poem of Memory and Desire. Boston: Twayne, 1988. Kazin, Alfred. God and the American Writer. New York: Knopf, 1997.

    Matthiessen, F.O. The Achievement of T.S. Eliot. New York: Oxford UP, 1947.


    Annas, Pamela J. A Disturbance in Mirrors: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988. Bennett, Paula. My Life, A Loaded Gun: Female Creativity and Feminist Poetics. Boston: Beacon Press,


    Britzolakis, Christina. Sylvia Plath and the Theatre of Mourning. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999. Bundtzen, Lynda K. Plath’s Incarnations: Woman and the Creative Process. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan

     Press, 1983.

    Van Dyne, Susan. Revising Life: Sylvia Plath’s Ariel Poems. Chapel Hill: Univ. of NC Press, 1993.


    Altieri, Charles. Self and Sensibility in Contemporary American Poetry. New York : Cambridge University

     Press, 1984.

    Halpern, Nick. Everyday and Prophetic: the poetry of Lowell, Ammons, Merrill and Rich. Madison: Univ.

     of Wisconsin Press, 2003.

    Keller, Lynn. Re-making it New: Contemporary American poetry and the Modernist

    Tradition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Langdell, Cheri. Adrienne Rich: The Moment of Change. Westport: Praeger, 2004. Templeton, Alice. The Dream and the Dialogue : Adrienne Rich's Feminist Poetics. Knoxville : University of

     Tennessee Press, 1994.

    Werner, Craig Hansen. Adrienne Rich: The Poet and Her Critics. Chicago : American Library Association,


    Ritsos & Patrikios

    Beaton, Roderick. An Introduction to Modern Greek Literature. New York: Oxford UP, 1994. Clogg, Richard. A Short History of Modern Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1980. Hondros, John Louis. Occupation and Resistance: the Greek agony, 1941-44. New York: Pella Publ. Co.,


    Kaloudis, George. Modern Greek Democracy. Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America, 2000. Keeley, Edmund. Modern Greek Poetry: Voice and Myth. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1983. Legg, Keith. Modern Greece: A Civilization on the Periphery. Boulder: Westview Press, 1997. Mazower, Mark. Inside Hitler’s Greece. New Haven, Yale UP, 1994.

    Mazower, Mark: After the War was Over: Reconstructing the Family, Nation and State in Greece, 1943-1960.

     Princeton: Princeton UP, 2000.

    Ritsos, Yannis. Exile and Return. Trans. Keeley. New York: Ecco Press, 1985. Vlavianos, Charles. Greece, 1941-49: from Resistance to Civil War. New York: St. Martin’s, 1992.

    Woodhouse, C.M. Modern Greece: a short history. Boston: Faber & Faber, 1991.


    Baer, William, ed. Conversations with Derek Walcott. Jackson : University Press of

    Mississippi, 1996.

    Brown, Stewart, ed. The Art of Derek Walcott. Chester Springs: Seren Books, 1991. Burnett, Paula. Derek Walcott : Politics and Poetics. Gainesville: University Press of

    Florida, 2000.

    Hamner, Robert D., ed. Critical Perspectives on Derek Walcott. Washington, D.C.: Three

    Continents Press, 1993.

    Heaney, Seamus. The Government of the Tongue: Selected Prose, 1978-1987. New

    York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989.

Terada, Rei. Derek Walcott's Poetry : American Mimicry. Boston : Northeastern

    University Press, 1992.

    Thieme, John. Derek Walcott. New York: Manchester University Press, 1999.

    Milosz & Zagajewski

    Biskupski, Mieczyslaw. The History of Poland. Greenwood Press, 2000.

    Ewa Czarnecka and Aleksander Fiut, eds. Conversations with Czeslaw Milosz. San Diego: Harcourt Brace,


    Davie, Donald. Slavic Excursions. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1990. Davies, Norman. God’s Playground: A History of Poland. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982. Fuit, Aleksander. The Eternal Moment: The Poetry of Czeslaw Milosz. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press,


    Levine, Madeline. Contemporary Polish Poetry. Boston: Twayne, 1981.

    Lukowski, Jerzy. A Concise History of Poland. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Nathan, Leonard and Arthur Quinn. The Poet’s Work: An Introduction to Czeslaw Milosz. Cambridge:

     Harvard UP, 1991.

    Zagajewski, Adam. Solidarity, Solitude. Newark: Ecco Press, 1990.

    Zagajewski, Adam. Two Cities: On Exile, History & the Imagination. Athens: University of Georgia Press,


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