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ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry. New Criticism ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry.

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Presentation on theme: "ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry. New Criticism ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry."— Presentation transcript:

1 ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

2 New Criticism ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

3 New Criticism Where are the lions? Lions in Sweden No more phrases, Swensen: I was once A hunter of those sovereigns of the soul And savings banks. Fides, the sculptor’s priz, All eyes and size, and called Justia, Trained to poise the tables of the law, Patienta forever soothing wounds And mighty Fortitudo, frantic bass. But these shall not adorn my souvenirs, These lions, these majestic images. If the fault is with the soul, the sovereigns Of the soul must likewise be at fault, and first... --Wallace Stevens ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

4 New Criticism New Criticism was born right here in Mid Tenn. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

5 New Criticism I. A. Richards Cleanth Brooks Allen Tate John Crowe Ransom Robert Penn Warren William Empson ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

6 New Criticism A Brief Guide to the Fugitives (from “The Fugitive was a literary magazine of poetry and criticism published at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, from 1922 until 1925. Both faculty and students, including John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, among others, contributed to this publication. They were practitioners and defenders of formal techniques in poetry and were preoccupied with defending the traditional values of the agrarian South against the effects of urban industrialization. According to critic J.A. Bryant, the group's goal as "the Fugitive poets" was simply "to demonstrate that a group of southerners could produce important work in the medium, devoid of sentimentality and carefully crafted," with special attention to the traditional prosodic techniques of meter, stanza, and rhyme. One member, John Crowe Ransom, had an enormous influence on an entire generation of poets and fellow academics, who subscribed to the doctrines he described in The New Criticism (1941), which restricted literary analysis to the text itself, rather than the cultural and historical context from which the text emerged. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

7 New Criticism A Brief Guide to the Fugitives (from Some of the Fugitive poets went on to form a second group, the Agrarians, whose 1930 manifesto of essays, I'll Take My Stand, remains a controversial document in the development of Southern literature. The thesis of many of the anthology’s essays--a rejection of industrialism for the agrarian way of life--was undermined by some of the contributors' unquestioning embrace of the South's past, "a past whose legacy included segregation and white supremacy" (Paul V. Murphy, The Rebuke of History). Other contributors, like Robert Penn Warren, rejected segregation in favor of constructing a more humane and just New South. For further reading, visit the Fugitives and Agrarians exhibit ( from the Vanderbilt University Library Archives, which features biographical sketches and photographs of members of the Fugitives, and The Southern Renaissance Unit of American Passages (, a literary curriculum produced by the Annenberg Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

8 New Criticism DEFINITION OF THE NEW CRITICISM The New Criticism is a type of formalist literary criticism that reached its height during the 1940s and 1950s and that received its name from John Crowe Ransom’s 1941 book The New Criticism. New Critics treat a work of literature as if it were a self-contained, self-referential object. Rather than basing their interpretations of a text on the reader’s response, the author’s stated intentions, or parallels between the text and historical contexts (such as author’s life), New Critics perform a close reading, concentrating on the relationships within the text that give it its own distinctive character or form. New Critics emphasize that the structure of a work should not be divorced from meaning, viewing the two as constituting a quasi- organic unity. Special attention is paid to repetition, particularly of images or symbols, but also of sound effects and rhythms in poetry. New Critics especially appreciate the use of literary devices, such as irony, to achieve a balance or reconciliation between dissimilar, even conflicting, elements in a text. Because it stresses close textual analysis and viewing the text as a carefully crafted, orderly object containing formal, observable patterns, the New Criticism has sometimes been called an "objective" approach to literature. New Critics are more likely than certain other critics to believe and say that the meaning of a text can be known objectively. For instance, reader-response critics see meaning as a function either of each reader’s experience or of the norms that govern a particular interpretive community, and deconstructors argue that texts mean opposite things at the same time. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

9 New Criticism The foundations of the New Criticism were laid in books and essays written during the 1920s and 1930s by I. A. Richards (Practical Criticism [1929]), William Empson (Seven Types of Ambiguity [1930]), and T. S. Eliot ("The Function of Criticism" [1933]). The approach was significantly developed later, however, by a group of American poets and critics, including R. P. Blackmur, Cleanth Brooks, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, and William K. Wimsatt. Although we associate the New Criticism with certain principles and terms—such as affective fallacy (the notion that the reader’s response is relevant to the meaning of a work) and intentional fallacy (the notion that the author’s intention determines the work’s meaning)—the New Critics were trying to make a cultural statement rather than to establish a critical dogma. Generally southern, religious, and culturally conservative, they advocated the inherent value of literary works (particularly of literary works regarded as beautiful art objects) because they were sick of the growing ugliness of modern life and contemporary events. Some recent theorists even link the rising popularity after World War II of the New Criticism (and other types of formalist literary criticism such as the Chicago School) to American isolationism. These critics tend to view the formalist tendency to isolate literature from biography and history as symptomatic of American fatigue with wider involvements. Whatever the source of the New Criticism’s popularity (or the reason for its eventual decline), its practitioners and the textbooks they wrote were so influential in American academia that the approach became standard in college and even high school curricula through the 1960s and well into the 1970s. Adapted from The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms by Ross Murfin and Supriya M. Ray. Copyright 1998 by Bedford Books. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

10 New Criticism The Heresy of Paraphrase “Brooks concluded The Well Wrought Urn by describing what he called the "Heresy of Paraphrase," arguing that any attempt to reduce poetic meaning to a prose statement of a theme or a description of a plot was a betrayal of the poem as a poem. By using the term "heresy," when in truth there was no proper orthodoxy of interpretation from which to depart, Brooks virtually guaranteed polemical replies to his position, just as he called attention to a pervasive perplexity about how to construct a viable theory—which may seem to the individual theorist to be a direct description of a literary reality but appears to others as saturated with an incompletely examined ideology or system of values. While critics such as Blackmur had regarded explicit theory as either redundant or irrelevant, the increasingly vigorous practice of critical interpretation led to frequently irresolvable conflicts over rival interpretations that seemed mutually exclusive. Thus, the very success of New Critical practice called attention to theoretical problems that had never been adequately addressed, just as its practical strength in producing intelligible readings is the source of a persistent anomaly of incompatible readings that no available postulates appear able to resolve.” ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

11 New Criticism The Intentional Fallacy and Affective Fallacy “A similar mixture of theory and polemic is evident in two influential essays by W. K. Wimsatt Jr. and Monroe Beardsley, "The Intentional Fallacy" and "The Affective Fallacy" (Wimsatt 3–39), which argued, respectively, that reports of an author’s original intention are not germane to judging a work of art, which either succeeds or fails according to what is actually expressed in its words, and that the meaning of a poem cannot be equated with how it affects a reader. A "heresy" may be more damning than a "fallacy," but both imply that there is a correct position and that it is in some way securely sanctioned. In this case, however, the supposition that one could accurately interpret texts without reference to authorial intention presents so severe a test of the reader that a strict avoidance of the intentional fallacy almost forces the reader into the affective fallacy, since the reader of the text is, by default, the only judge—as post–New Critical theorists, such as Norman Holland, David Bleich, or Stanley Fish... have not hesitated to assert criticism.” ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

12 New Criticism Formal Elements  ambiguity  paradox  irony  tension ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

13 New Criticism Formal Elements  ambiguity ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

14 New Criticism Formal Elements  ambiguity ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

15 New Criticism Formal Elements  paradox ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

16 New Criticism Formal Elements  irony ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

17 New Criticism Formal Elements  tension ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

18 John Crowe Ransom (1908-1963) ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

19 John Crowe Ransom Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter There was such speed in her little body, And such lightness in her footfall, It is no wonder her brown study Astonishes us all. Her wars were bruited in our high window. We looked among orchard trees and beyond Where she took arms against her shadow, Or harried unto the pond The lazy geese, like a snow cloud Dripping their snow on the green grass, Tricking and stopping, sleepy and proud, Who cried in goose, Alas, For the tireless heart within the little Lady with rod that made them rise From their noon apple-dream and scuttle Goose-fashion under the skies! But now go the bells, and we are ready, In one house we are stern stopped To say we are vexed at her brown study, Lying so primly propped. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

20 John Crowe Ransom “Art is based on second love, not first love. In it we make a return to something which we had willfully alienated. The child is occupied mostly with things, but it is because he is still unfurnished with systematic ideas, not because he is a ripe citizen by nature and comes already trailing clouds of glory. Images are clouds of glory for the man who has discovered that ideas are a sort of darkness.”—John Crowe Ransom ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

21 Robert Penn Warren (1905-1988) ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

22 Robert Penn Warren David Milch (Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, Deadwood)— Warren’s prize student ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

23 Robert Penn Warren ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

24 Robert Penn Warren Bearded Oaks The oaks, how subtle and marine, Barded, and all the layered light Above them swims; and thus the scene, Recessed, awaits the positive night. So, waiting, we in the grass now lie Beneath the languorous tread of light: The grasses, kelp-like, satisfy The nameless motions of the air. Upon the floor of light, and time, Unmurmuring, of polyp made, We rest; we are, as light withdraws, Twin atolls on a shelf of shade. Ages to our construction went, Dim architecture, hour by hour: And violence, forgot now, lent The present stillness all its power. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

25 Robert Penn Warren Bearded Oaks The storm of noon above us rolled, Of light and fury, furious gold, The long drag troubling us, the depth: Dark is unrocking, unrippling, still. Passion and slaughter, ruth, decay Descend, minutely whispering down, Silted down swaying streams, to lay Foundation for our voicelessness. All our debate is voiceless here, As all our rage, the rage of stone; If hope is hopeless, then fearless fear, And history is thus undone. Our feet once wrought the hollow street With echo when the lamps were dead At windows, once our headlight glare Disturbed the doe that, leaping, fled. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

26 Robert Penn Warren Bearded Oaks I do not love you less that now The caged heart makes iron stroke, Or less that all that light once gave The graduate dark should now revoke. We live in time so little time And we learn all so painfully, That we may spare this hour’s term To practice for eternity. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

27 Robert Penn Warren Tell Me a Story [ A ] Long ago, in Kentucky, I, a boy, stood By a dirt road, in first dark, and heard The great geese hoot northward. I could not see them, there being no moon And the stars sparse. I heard them. I did not know what was happening in my heart. It was the season before the elderberry blooms, Therefore they were going north. The sound was passing northward. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

28 Robert Penn Warren Tell Me a Story [ B ] Tell me a story. In this century, and moment, of mania, Tell me a story. Make it a story of great distances, and starlight. The name of the story will be Time, But you must not pronounce its name. Tell me a story of deep delight. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

29 Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) Unfortunate Coincidence By the time you swear you're his, Shivering and sighing, And he vows his passion is Infinite, undying - Lady, make a note of this: One of you is lying. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

30 Dorothy Parker Résumé Razors pain you; Rivers are damp; Acids stain you; And drugs cause cramp. Guns aren't lawful; Nooses give; Gas smells awful; You might as well live. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

31 Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

32 Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

33 Edna St. Vincent Millay First Fig My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends— It gives a lovely light! ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

34 Edna St. Vincent Millay I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed I, being born a woman and distressed By all the needs and notions of my kind, Am urged by your propinquity to find Your person fair, and feel a certain zest To bear your body's weight upon my breast: So subtly is the fume of life designed, To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind, And leave me once again undone, possessed. Think not for this, however, the poor treason Of my stout blood against my staggering brain, I shall remember you with love, or season My scorn wtih pity, -- let me make it plain: I find this frenzy insufficient reason For conversation when we meet again. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

35 Edna St. Vincent Millay ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

36 Edna St. Vincent Millay Justice Denied in Massachusetts Let us abandon then our gardens and go home And sit in the sitting-room Shall the larkspur blossom or the corn grow under this cloud? Sour to the fruitful seed Is the cold earth under this cloud, Fostering quack and weed, we have marched upon but cannot conquer; We have bent the blades of our hoes against the stalks of them. Let us go home, and sit in the sitting room. Not in our day Shall the cloud go over and the sun rise as before, Beneficent upon us Out of the glittering bay, And the warm winds be blown inward from the sea Moving the blades of corn With a peaceful sound. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

37 Edna St. Vincent Millay Let us sit here, sit still, Here in the sitting-room until we die; At the step of Death on the walk, rise and go; Leaving to our children's children the beautiful doorway, And this elm, And a blighted earth to till With a broken hoe. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

38 Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982) ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

39 Archibald MacLeish Ars Poetica A poem should be palpable and mute As a globed fruit, Dumb As old medallions to the thumb, Silent as the sleeve-worn stone Of casement ledges where the moss has grown— A poem should be wordless As the flight of birds. A poem should be motionless in time As the moon climbs, Leaving, as the moon releases Twig by twig the night-entangled trees, ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

40 Archibald MacLeish, “Ars Poetica” Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves, Memory by memory the mind— A poem should be motionless in time As the moon climbs. A poem should be equal to: Not true. For all the history of grief An empty doorway and a maple leaf. For love The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea— A poem should not mean But be. “I cannot find any more profundity in the proposition that ‘a poem must not mean but be’ than I could in the proposition, say, that ‘a satellite must not orbit, but stop still.’" (Owen Barfield, Rediscovery of Meaning 132) ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

41 Archibald MacLeish, “The End of the World” Quite unexpectedly, as Vasserot The armless ambidextrian was lighting A match between his great and second toe, And Ralph the lion was engaged in biting The neck of Madame Sossman while the drum Pointed, and Teeny was about to cough In waltz-time swinging Jocko by the thumb— Quite unexpectedly the top blew off: And there, there overhead, there, there hung over Those thousands of white faces, those dazed eyes, There in the starless dark the poise, the hover, There with vast wings across the cancelled skies, There in the sudden blackness the black pall Of nothing, nothing, nothing --- nothing at all. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

42 Sara Teasdale (1884-1933) There Will Come Soft Rains There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground, And swallows circling with their shimmering sound; And frogs in the pools singing at night, And wild plum trees in tremulous white; Robins will wear their feathery fire, Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire; And not one will know of the war, not one Will care at last when it is done. Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree, If mankind perished utterly; And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn Would scarcely know that we were gone. ENGL 3370: Modern American Poetry

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