The Art of Twentieth-Century American Poetry: Modernism and After / Edition 1

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"Written by a leading critic, this introduction to modernist American poetry conveys the excitement that can be generated by a careful reading of modernist poems. It encourages readers to confront the difficulties involved in tackling this literature and to identify with the modernists' sense of the revolutionary possibilities of their art." Altieri's account embraces four generations of American poets, tracing the ambitions, the disillusionments, and the continuities of modernist poetry through to the 1980s. He describes how the sense of liberation created by early modernist formal experiments was followed by disappointment as the limitations of these discoveries emerged. He contends that, in response, poets such as Wallace Stevens and W. H. Auden reformulated modernist strategies to develop new ways for poetry to take social responsibility. Finally, he shows how these transformations were carried through by later poets suds as Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Adrienne Rich, and Robert Creeley.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Altieri reads modernist poetry with deep attention and pleasure because he believes that the “gamble” taken by modernism is worth our continued respect. That gamble is the possibility that these poems are not “an accompaniment to the world but the realization of how mind and world become one dynamic field.” Situating the experiments of modernist poetry in the context of early 20th-century scientific and philosophical developments, particularly in the understanding of sensation and perception, Altieri proposes the emergence of a “new realism.” This new realism has consequences for the intellectual and affective dimensions of poetry, for the conception of the poet as the seeing “I,” and for the kind of attention readers bring to a poem. The book traces a history ranging from the “impersonal” experiments of high modernism (Pound, Williams, Eliot, Loy, Moore and Stevens) to poems that construct new kinds of social identities (Zukofsky, Oppen, Hughes, and Auden) and, finally, to a range of later poets who, in various ways, interrogate the costs and limits of impersonality (Lowell, Rich, Creeley, Bishop, Ashbery). Offering lucid analyses of major poets, The Art of Twentieth-Century American Poetry demonstrates how reading a poem can be an exhilarating way of engaging with the world."
Gail McDonald, University of North Carolina-Greensboro

“Charles Altieri has the almost uncanny capacity to synthesize complex entities, such as the entire body of poetry of a major figure or the fraught interplay of a poetic movement, into a series of clear and incisive philosophical statements. It's not that he reduces poetry to philosophy—in fact, he gives many sensitive readings of individual poems—but that he is able to ferret out what is most crucially at stake in modern poetry and to present it crisply and succinctly. No one does a better job than Altieri of showing how much modern poetry has to contribute to an understanding of modern life.”
Stephen Fredman, University of Notre Dame

“The close readings of sometimes quite familiar poems are fresh and provocative, and the argument is one that makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the legacy of the major modernist poets."
Christopher MacGowan, College of William and Mary

"Altieri is thoroughly captivating, especially when his precise, synthetic, and innovative interpretations focus on beloved poets such as T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, W.H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop and John Ashbery."
The Wallace Stevens Journal

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Charles Altieri is Stageberg Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. His previous publications include The Particulars of Rapture: An Aesthetics of the Affects (2003), Subjective Agency: A Theory of First-person Expressivity and its Social Implications (Blackwell, 1994), Postmodernism Now (1999), and Painterly Abstraction in Modernist American Poetry (1990).

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction : the art of twentieth-century American poetry : an overview 1
2 The new realism in modernist poetry : Pound and Williams 11
3 The doctrine of impersonality and modernism's war on rhetoric : Eliot, Loy, and Moore 52
4 How modernist poetics failed and efforts at renewal : Williams, Oppen, and Hughes 97
5 The return to rhetoric in modernist poetry : Stevens and Auden 126
6 Modernist dilemmas and early post-modernist responses 157
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