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Welcome to Comp Lit 384

What is the difference between a pen and a paintbrush? Can a poem be a painting? What is poetic about a photograph? Throughout the 20th century, these questions became especially urgent for writers and artists living in an age when world wars, mass communication and general relativity seemed to threaten the very ideas of time and space.

In this course we will read poetry that interprets, imitates, or even becomes visual art. Starting with the Romantic period, we will trace changing ideas of poetry’s relationship to image through the digital age. While this class is meant as a survey of the importance of visual art for poetry during the 20th Century, it will focus specifically on two main questions: the relationship between time and space in poetry; and the similarities and differences in the ways that image and text create meaning.

To ground our discussions, we will sample some of the most important theoretical texts on image’s relationship to the word. The main focus of the class, however, will be on refining skills in close reading. Background knowledge in Art History is welcomed but not necessary.


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William Carlos Williams

Anne Sexton

Seamus Heaney

Allen Ginsberg

Octavio Paz

Wislawa Szymborska

W. H. Auden

e. e. cummings

Willliam Blake

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

John Keats

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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