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Course Description
01-30-2013, 07:00 PM
Post: #1
Course Description
Poetry and the Arts
Dr. Maha El Said – Dr. Ahmed El-Shamy

This course deals with poetic expressions in visual and performance arts, with particular emphasis on two broad areas: fine art and spoken word, showing how the transformation from Modernism to Post-modernism is itself a shift from high to pop. The course starts with a discussion of major figures in Modern Poetry such as T.S. Eliot, and different schools and trends such as imagism and symbolism.

In the area of fine art, the concept of ekphrasis (i.e. poetry that addresses visual works of art), will be introduced to show how and why poets have often turned to paintings as their subjects. The complex relations between verbal and pictorial representation will be explored together with their aesthetic, social and moral implications. The discussion covers a wide range of works by British, American and Irish poets as well as authors of other nationalities who write in English. Their poems will be examined in relation to works by master painters from Leonardo da Vinci and Titian to Goya and Magritte.

The second part of the course will focus on the Spoken Word Revolution. It will explore the poetics and themes of spoken word, starting with the jazz poetry, The Beat Generation, BAM, The Last Poets, Poetry Slam, Performance poetry and finally Hip Hop and rap. Discussion will explore the content, language, style and structure of representative figures of these movements. This part will also engage in performance theory and cultural theory to compare and contrast poetry written for the stage and poetry written for the page. Themes such as identity politics, social injustice, racial discrimination, all of which are common themes of spoken word poetry, will be discussed with reference to the cultural and historical context.

By the end of the course students should be able to:
1. Distinguish trends and main figures in modern poetry
2. Trace the development of poetry from high to pop culture
3. Recognize a wide range of interconnections between poetry and high museum culture
4. Apply literary research and analysis tools creatively beyond the textual boundaries of literature
5. Identify the different techniques used in spoken word poetry
6. Recognize the different performance theories that underpin performance poetry

Course Outline:
Week 1: The transition from Victorianism to Modernism I
Week 2: The transition from Victorianism to Modernism II
Week 3: Ekphrasis, and the ut pictura poesis tradition
Week 4: Aesthetic and Ethical questions in the ekphrastic situation
Week 5: The relationship between painter, poet and audience
Week 6: The relationship between art and reality
Week 7: Ekphrasis and temporality: Anxieties of the contemporary moment
Week 8: From high Art to Pop: The Jazz cadence of poetry: “Blues Aesthetics”
Week 9: The Beat Generation: Poetry of the Underground
Week ten: Black Arts Movement and Reggae: From social engagement to political power
Week 11: Hip Hop: Street poets and rappers
Week 12: Poetry Slams and Jams: the democratization of poetry: Performance poetry

Course material:
A Course Reading Packet will be made available to the students for photocopying at the beginning of the course.


Students are expected to engage in class discussion, and will be asked to give at least two presentations during the course. Written assignments will be required. Students will also have to sit for a final exam.

List of references:

On poetry and Fine Art:

• "The Relations between Poetry and Painting," by Wallace Stevens
• From Ways of Seeing, by John Berger
• From Regarding the Pain of Others, by Susan Sontag
• "Bystanding in Auden's "Musée," by Elizabeth B. Loiseaux
• "Ekphrasis," by Stephen Cheeke
• 'The Shape of Time': Ekphrasis and the Contemporary Moment," by David Kennedy
• "Reframing the Ekphrastic Canon from Keats to Ashbery," by David Kennedy
• Ovid, Titian and English Poetry, by Nicholas Penny

On Spoken Word poetry:

• "Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word" by Walter J. Ong
• "How You Sound??" by Amiri Baraka
• "Declare Yourself: Spoken Word Fact Sheet"
• Extracts from Resistance Literature by Barbara Harlow
• "Poetry Out Loud" by Peter Davison
• "A Complete History of Slam"
• "Poems on the Page, Poems in the Air" Prologue from The Spoken Word Revolution
• "Performance Poetry: New Language and New Literary Circuits?" Cornelia Grabner
• “Foreword” by Sonia Sanchez from bum rush the page: a def poetry jam
• “The Sidewalk of High Art” by Miguel Algarin from ALOUD: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets
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