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Poetry and Politics: Pound, Arendt, Lowell
COL 202
Spring 2020 not offered

By focusing on the connections among two poets and a political philosopher, this seminar will explore the problematic relationship between art and political life. Robert Lowell sought Ezra Pound as a poetic mentor; Lowell and Hannah Arendt were friends; and all three became embroiled in controversies over the relationship between morality and aesthetics after World War II. The course will ask to what extent poetry can be politically destructive and morally culpable and, conversely, consider whether the writing of poetry can be a redemptive act. Writing assignments will encourage students to focus their discussions of political and aesthetic theory through case studies and to relate ideas to poetry through close readings.

The class will read selections from Pound's CANTOS, including the PISAN CANTOS (1948), giving careful consideration both to his poetic theory and to his attraction to fascism. Our discussion of Pound will conclude with a sustained study of the debates that erupted when the fascist Pound was awarded the 1949 Bollingen Prize for poetry. We will then focus on Arendt's critique of fascism and totalitarianism and her belief that writing, or storytelling, can be morally and politically redemptive. Readings from Arendt will range from THE ORIGINS OF TOTALITARIANISM (1950) to "Thinking and Moral Considerations" (1984; posthumously published). We will read EICHMANN IN JERUSALEM (1963) in its entirety and consider it as both a treatise in political theory and as a historical narrative. By revisiting the controversy that greeted its publication, we will again take a public debate as a case study that allows us to consider the relation of art and morality. Finally, we will discuss Lowell's poetry as a possible example of the kind of storytelling Arendt endorses, reading LIFE STUDIES (1959) and much of NOTEBOOK (1970). At the same time, we will explore Lowell's admiration for Pound (he was on the committee that awarded Pound the Bollingen prize) and ask to what extent his poetry adequately responds to the dilemmas posed by Pound's example.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA COL
Course Format: DiscussionGrading Mode: Student Option
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None

Last Updated on JUL-23-2024
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