Twentieth Century British and Irish Poetry (ENG458)

Course Description

The aim of this course is to introduce students to some of the great and good poems written by poets of the British Isles in the twentieth century. First we explore the consequences of Romanticism for the twentieth century, and read some Keats (especially), and / or Blake, Wordsworth, Byron and Shelley. We often read the two 'transitional'; poets Hardy and Housman, whose work straddles both centuries. Then we look at the consequences of World War I and of Modernism (especially Yeats) as the century unfolds, and then spend some time with the poets of “The Movement."; In the latter part of the twentieth century, we read works by poets who are still living, and sometimes we correspond with them. Anne Stevenson recently gave a poetry reading at Penn State, with support from the Schreyer Honors College. Throughout, we discuss and analyze the formal strategies the poets employ. Sometimes we talk about the schisms and links among English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish poets; sometime we note how many important British and Irish poets migrated to the United States, and how many important American poets went in the opposite direction. And we talk about the interactions among men and women poets, as the century progresses. We make special use of essays in the Hudson Review and the PN Review.


Essay 1 on Keats
Essay 2 on Keats
Essay 1 on Housman
Essay 2 on Housman
Essay on Donald Davie
Essay on Anne Stevenson
Review on contemporary British and Irish poetry