English 6690: Postmodern American Poetry, Spring 2014

Section 01: TR 2:00-3:15PM, Arts & Sciences 351A


Dr. Alex E. Blazer


Office Hours:

MTW 1:15-1:45PM Arts & Sciences 330,

R 1:15-1:45PM Blackbird,

and by appt


Course Description


The catalog description for this course states: "Prerequisite: Admission to candidacy for MA in English or MFA in Creative Writing. This course is repeatable for credit." Although the Academic Assessment page is blank, we will be doing an extensive and in depth study of postmodern American poetry by reading selected poems, books of poetry, theories of postmodernism, and poetry criticism. We will explore the nature of the self, the nature of writing, and the relationship of poetry and culture in the postmodern era by reading such poets as John Ashbery, Jorie Graham, Lorine Neidecker (Objectivist poetry), John Cage (chance poetry), Jackson Mac Low (nonintentional poetry), Lyn Hejinian (Language writing), Kenneth Goldsmith (conceptual poetry), and Jordan Davis (Flarf); such poet-critics as Charles Bernstein, Bob Perelman, and Kenneth Goldsmith; and such critic-theorists as Marjorie Perloff.


Course Materials


required textbooks (Amazon)

Armantrout, Just Saying (Charles Morris's selection)

Ashbery, Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror

Bernstein, Republics of Reality: 1975-1995

Duncan, Bending the Bow (Matt Sweat's selection)

Ginsberg, White Shroud: Poems 1980-1985 (Brandon McCoy's selection)

Graham, Materialism

Hejinian, My Life and My Life in the Nineties

Kaufman, The Ancient Rain: Poems, 1956-1978 (Mike Murphy's selection)

Retallack, Memnoir (Carrie Ginest's selection)

required articles and poems (GeorgiaVIEW)

course packet

recommended websites

Electronic Poetry Center




Assignments and Grade Distribution


book selection, 20%

In consultation with the professor, you will select a book of poetry and two theoretical and/or critical articles to accompany the book for the class to read and discuss. You will teach most of the second day of class on the poet's selected work and the two essays. It is recommended that you borrow and peruse a copy of the professor's anthologies to commence the selection process: 1) Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing, 2) From the Other Side of the Century: A New American Poetry 1960-1990, 3) In the American Tree, 4) Language Poetries: An Anthology, 5) The Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry, 6) Poems for the Millennium, Volume Two: From Postwar to Millennium. Possible poets include but are not limited to: Andrews, Armantrout, Creeley, Dahlen, Dorn, Eigner, Harryman, Hillman, Howe (Susan), Mackey, Silliman, Waldrop (Rosmarie), Watten, and Weiner.

comparison/contrast paper, 20%

You will compare and contrast the poetics and/or world view of two poets on our syllabus in an 8-10 page paper due in the GeorgiaVIEW Comparison/Contrast Paper dropbox.

book review, 20%

You will review (summarize and evaluate, appreciate and interrogate) a theoretical or critical book on postmodern American poetry in an 8-10 page paper due in the GeorgiaVIEW Book Review dropbox. Possible books include, but are not limited to, Ashton's From Modernism to Postmodernism: American Poetry and Theory in the Twentieth Century, Bernstein's My Way: Speeches and Poems, Goldsmith's Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age, Perelman's The Marginalization of Poetry: Language Writing and Literary History, Perloff's Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media, Simpson's Poetic Epistemologies, and Silliman's The New Sentence. The GeorgiaVIEW course packet contains book reviews by Balakian, Byers, Holden, McCaffery, and Orr, and you can find more examples using GALILEO.

seminar paper, 40%

After submitting a 250 word proposal to the GeorgiaVIEW Proposal dropbox, you will write a 12-15 page seminar paper, using a combination of six theoretical and critical sources, on either a theoretical issue in postmodern American poetry or an interpretation of a postmodern American poet and present your work-in-progress to the class, and submit it to the GeorgiaVIEW Seminar Paper dropbox.


Course Policies



We will use the course site for the syllabus schedule and assignment prompts; supporting documents include an attendance record, a course grade calculation spreadsheet, FAQ, a GeorgiaVIEW walkthrough, a guide to literary analysis, a research methods guide, and paper templates. We will use GeorgiaVIEW for assignment submission and electronic course reserves. Check your university email for course-related messages. Use an online backup or cloud storage service such as Dropbox to not only save but also archive versions of your work in case of personal computer calamities.


Because this liberal arts course values contemporaneous discussion over fixed lecture, regular attendance is required. Any student who misses seven or more classes for any reason (excused or unexcused) will fail the course. There will be a one letter final grade deduction for every unexcused absence beyond three. I suggest you use your three days both cautiously and wisely; and make sure you sign the attendance sheets. Habitual tardies, consistently leaving class early, texting, and surfing the internet will be treated as absences. Unexcused absences include work, family obligations, and scheduled doctor's appointments. Excused absences include family emergency, medical emergency, religious observance, and participation in a college-sponsored activity. If you have a medical condition or an extracurricular activity that you anticipate will cause you to miss more than four days of class, I suggest you drop this section or risk failure. The university class attendance policy can be found here. You can check your attendance here.

MLA Style and Length Requirements

Part of writing in a discipline is adhering to the field's style guide. While other disciplines use APA or Chicago style, literature and composition follows MLA style. In-class exams, discussion board responses, informal/journal writing, and peer review may be informally formatted; however, formal assignments and take-home exams must employ MLA style. One-third of a letter grade will be deducted from a formal paper or take-home exam for problems in each of the following three categories, for a possible one letter grade deduction total: 1) margins, header, and heading, 2) font, font size, and line-spacing, and 3) quotation and citation format. A formal paper or take-home exam will be penalized one-third of a letter grade if it does not end at least halfway down on the minimum page length (not including Works Cited page)while implementing 12 pt Times New Roman font, double-spacing, and 1" margins. Each additional page short of the minimum requirement will result in an a additional one-third letter grade penalty. It is your responsibility to learn how to control your word-processing program. Before you turn in a formal paper, make sure your work follows MLA style by referring to the FAQ handout and using the MLA style checklist. Feel free to use these templates that are preformatted to MLA style.

Late Assignments

We're all busy with multiple classes and commitments, and adhering to deadlines is critical for the smooth running of the course. There will be a one letter assignment grade deduction per day (not class period) for any assignment that is turned in late. I give short extensions if you request one for a valid need at least one day before the assignment is due. I will inform you via email if I cannot open an electronically submitted assignment; however, your assignment will be considered late until you submit it in a file I can open. Because your completion of this course's major learning outcomes depends on the completion of pertinent assignments, failing to submit an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade within a five days of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course. Failing to submit a final exam or final paper within two days of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course.

Academic Honesty

The integrity of students and their written and oral work is a critical component of the academic process. The Honor Code defines plagiarism as "presenting as one's own work the words or ideas of an author or fellow student. Students should document quotes through quotation marks and footnotes or other accepted citation methods. Ignorance of these rules concerning plagiarism is not an excuse. When in doubt, students should seek clarification from the professor who made the assignment." The submission of another's work as one's own is plagiarism and will be dealt with using the procedures outlined in the Undergraduate Catalog. Allowing another student to copy one’s own work is considered cheating; and submitting the same paper in two classes (recycling or double-dipping) is dishonest. As plagiarism is not tolerated at GCSU, any student found guilty of substantial, willful plagiarism or dishonesty will fail the assignment and the course. Here is how I have dealt with plagiarists in the past. This course uses plagiarism prevention technology from TurnItIn. The papers may be retained by the service for the sole purpose of checking for plagiarized content in future student submissions.

Passing or Failing of the Course

There are three ways to fail the course: failing to regularly attend class, plagiarizing, failing an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade, be it from poor quality, lateness of submission, or a combination of poor quality and lateness. By contrast, students who regularly attend class, complete their work with academic integrity, and submit assignments on time will pass the course.

The Writing Center

The Writing Center is a free service available to all members of the university community. Consultants assist writers in the writing process, from conception and organization of compositions to revision to documentation of research. Located in Library 228, the Center is open Monday through Friday. Call 445-3370 or email for more information.

Additional Policies

Additional statements regarding the Religious Observance Policy, Assistance for Student Needs Related to Disability, Student Rating of Instruction Survey, Academic Honesty, and Fire Drills can be found here.


Course Schedule

Week 1
T, 1-14

Woods, "Postmodernism and the Literary Arts" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Oppen, Poetry Foundation

Recommended: Essential American Poets, "George Oppen"

Recommended: Poem Talk, "George Oppen's 'Ballad'"

R, 1-16

Niedecker, Poetry Foundation and GeorgiaVIEW

Perloff, "Barbed-Wire Entanglement: The New American Poetry, 1930-1932" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: Essential American Poets, "Lorine Niedecker"

Week 2
T, 1-21

Cage, poetry (GeorgiaVIEW)

Mac Low, poetry (GeorgiaVIEW)

Hoagland, "Recognition, Vertigo, and Passionate Worldliness: The Tribes of Contemporary Poetry" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: UbuWeb, "Writing for the Second Time through Finnegans Wake"

Recommended: Poem Talk, "Jackson Mac Low, 'Words nd Ends from Ez IX. From Drafts & Fragments of Cantos CX-CXVII'"

R, 1-23

Angelou, "On the Pulse of the Morning" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Fagin and Coolidge, On the Pumice of Morons (GeorgiaVIEW)

Coolidge, poetry (GeorgiaVIEW)

Dworkin, "Mycopedagogy" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: Angelou, "On the Pulse of the Morning"

Week 3
T, 1-28

No Class: Snow Day

R, 1-30

Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1977)

Week 4
T, 2-4

Ashbery, "The Invisibile Avant-Garde" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Keniston, "'The fluidity of damaged Form': Theorizing Postmodern Address" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Gardner, "John Ashbery's New Voice" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: Essential American Poets, "John Ashbery"

Recommended: KCRW's Bookworm, "John Ashbery"

Recommended: Poem Talk, "John Ashbery's 'Crossroads in the Past'"

R, 2-6

Graham, Materialism (1993)

Week 5
T, 2-11

McHale, "Postmodernist Lyric and the Ontology of Poetry" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Zona, "Jorie Graham and American Poetry" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: Essential American Poets, "Jorie Graham"

Recommended: KCRW's Bookworm, "Jorie Graham"

R, 2-13

No Class: Snow Day

Week 6

T, 2-18

Hejinian, My Life and My Life in the Nineties (1980/2013)

R, 2-20

Perelman, "Language Writing and Literary History" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Simpson, "Language-Oriented Feminist Epistemology, and the Case of Lyn Hejinian" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: Poem Talk, "Lyn Hejinian's 'constant change figures'"

Week 7
T, 2-25

Bernstein, Republics of Reality: 1975-1995 (1996)

Book Review or Comparison/Contrast Paper Due

R, 2-27

Bernstein, "The Dollar Value of Poetry" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Perfloff, "The Changing Face of Common Intercourse: Talk Poetry, Talk Show, and the Scene of Writing" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Perloff, "Against Transparency: From Radiant Cluster to the Word as Such" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: Poem Talk, "Charles Bernstein's 'In a Restless World Like This Is'"

Week 8
T, 3-4

Goldsmith, Fidget (2000)

Goldsmith, Soliloquy (2001)

Goldsmith, "Anticipating Instability" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Goldsmith, "Toward a Poetics of Hyperrealism" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Goldsmith, "The Writer as Meme Machine" (GeorgiaVIEW)

R, 3-6

Goldsmith, "Flarf is Dionysus. Conceptual Writing is Apollo" [also read the Flarf and Conceptual Writing Anthology at the end of the article]

Recommended: Poetry Magazine Podcast, "June/July 2009" (20:40)

Week 9
T, 3-11

Magee, "The Flarf Files"

Jacket 2, "Flarf"

Dworkin, "The Fate of Echo" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Ashton, "Labor and Lyric: The Politics of Self-Expression in Contemporary American Poetry" (GeorgiaVIEW)

R, 3-13

Duncan, Bending the Bow (1968, Matt Sweat's selection)

Week 10
T, 3-18

No Class: Spring Break

R, 3-20

No Class: Spring Break

Week 11
T, 3-25

Scroggins, "Coming Down from Black Mountain" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Weatherhead, "Robert Duncan and the Lyric" (GeorgiaVIEW)

R, 3-27

No Class: Professor at Conference

Book Review or Comparison/Contrast Paper Due

Week 12
T, 4-1

Kaufman, The Ancient Rain: Poems, 1956-1978 (1981, Mike Murphy's selection)

R, 4-3

Johnston, "Consumption, Addiction, Vision, Energy: Political Economies and Utopian Visions in the Writings of the Beat Generation" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Kohli, "Saxophones and Smothered Rage: Bob Kaufman, Jazz and the Quest for Redemption" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Week 13
T, 4-8

Ginsberg, White Shroud: Poems 1980-1985 (1986, Brandon McCoy's selection)

R, 4-10

Gregson, "The Postmodern Self" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Hungerford, "Postmodern Supernaturalism: Ginsberg and the Search for a Supernatural Language" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: Public Reading, April 22, 1994

Week 14
T, 4-15

Retallack, Memnoir (2004, Carrie Ginest's selection)

Seminar Paper Proposal Due

R, 4-17

***Meet in Buffington's

Hatlen, "Joan Retallack: A Philosopher among the Poets, a Poet among the Philosophers" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Kinzer, "Excuses and Other Nonsense: Joan Retallack's 'How to Do Things with Words'" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: Retallack, "Memnoir"

Recommended: Poem Talk, Joan Retallack's "Not a Cage"

Recommended: Retallack, "The Experimental Feminine"

Week 15
T, 4-22

Armantrout, Just Saying (2013, Charles Morris's selection)

R, 4-24

***Meet in Buffington's

Armantrout, Interview (GeorgiaVIEW)

Leddy, "'See Armantrout for an Alternate View': Narrative and Counternarrative in the Poetry of Rae Armantrout" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: KCRW's Bookworm, "Rae Armantrout"

Week 16
T, 4-29

Panel Presentations Due

The Beats Are Back in Town:

Brandon McCoy, "Bob Kaufman's Historical Playground"

Mike Murphy, title TBA

R, 5-1

Panel Presentations Due

The Postmodern Poetics and Language of the Self: Carrie Ginest, title TBA

Charles Morris, "The Marginalization of Poetry: The Language Poets"

Matt Sweat, "Absence and Presence: The Self in Postmodern Poetry"

W, 5-7

Seminar Paper Due