Modern American Poetry

Fall of 2009 | TR 1120-1245 | Peck Hall 308

Dr. David Lavery

Office: PH 372 | Office Hours:  TBA | E-mail: | Office Phone/Voice-Mail: 615-898-5648 | Home Page:


Dr. David Lavery is Professor of English at MTSU (1993- ). The author of over one hundred published essays (several on poetry and poetics), chapters, and reviews, he is author / co-author / editor / co-editor of sixteen books, including Joss: A Creative Portrait of the Maker of the Whedonverses  and The Essential Cult Television Reader. The organizer of international conferences on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Sopranos, a founding co-editor of the journals Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies and Critical Studies in Television, he has lectured around the world on the subject of television (Australia, Turkey, the UK, Portugal, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany) and has been a guest/source for the BBC, NPR, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The New York Times, A Folha de Sao Paulo, The Toronto Star. From 2006-2008, he taught at Brunel University in London. Next to television, his greatest love is poetry.



L-R (top row) Dickinson, Whitman, Robinson, Stevens, Williams, Frost, Crane (middle row) Pound, Eliot, Bishop, Moore, Cummings, H. D., Hughes (bottom row) Lindsay, Jeffers, Roethke, Ginsberg, Merrill, Snyder, Oliver


Critical Essay 1: A critical essay of not less than 1250 words offering a reading of a single poem. Go here to see a sample essay by an MTSU student on Langston Hughes. 20% of grade. Critical Essay 2: A critical essay of not less than 2000 words on the work of a particular poet. (Your choice of subject may not be the author of the poem you wrote about in Essay 1.) 40% of grade. Final Exam, Part I: A take-home exam, consisting of a menu of topics, from which you will select two, responding with essay answers. These topics will all be "leading questions," intended to inspire your own comprehensive synthesis of course ideas, questions, problems. 20% of grade. Final Exam, Part II: An in-class cognitive-memory test, consisting of a variety of matching, identification, short answer questions (on authors, works, literary terms). 20% of grade


Manuscript form: All written assignments must be word-processed and must be submitted in digital form, as a Microsoft Word or Rich Text attachment, either as an e-mail sent to or via D2L. Reading Assignments: You are responsible for having read the entirety of each assignment and keeping up with the required reading. Participation & involvement: Please come prepared for each day’s class. I encourage you to become an active participant in class discussion and to ask constructive and meaningful questions at all times--even when I appear to be "lecturing." Plagiarism / Cheating: The unacknowledged use of the words/ideas/ insights/ original research of another is, of course, prohibited. Should I catch you plagiarizing, or cheating in any way, you will receive a grade of "0" on the assignment in question, the violation may be reported to University authorities, and you may fail the course. Students with Disabilities: Any student with a disability will be given all the rights and privileges guaranteed under the Americans with Disabilities Act if he/she is registered with Disabled Student Services (call/contact John Harris, KUC 120/2783).



All page numbers refer to the Nelson anthology. Please read all the selections for each poet.

Date | Subject/Readings/Course Requirements

Week 1

9/1/09 | Introduction to the Course | Thoughts on Poetry

9/3/09 | Walt Whitman (1) | "Song of Myself" Online | Whitman Power Point

Week 2

9/8/09 | Emily Dickinson (9) | Dickinson Power Point

9/10/09 | Edwin Arlington Robinson (25) | Robinson Power Point


9/15/09 | Robert Frost (84) | Frost Power Point

9/17/09 | Frost (ctd.)

Week 4

9/22/09 | Wallace Stevens (124) | Stevens Power Point  | My Stevens Website

9/24/09 | Stevens (ctd.)

Week 5

9/29/09 | William Carlos Williams (164) | Williams Power Point

10/1/09 | Williams (ctd.)

Week 6

10/6/09 | Ezra Pound (202) & T. S. Eliot (277) | Pound Power Point | Eliot Power Point

10/8/09 | H. D. (232) & Marianne Moore (250) | H. D. Power Point | Moore Power Point | Eliot/Pound/Moore Power Point | Nancy Roche, "H.D.'s Crucible of Fire"

Week 7

10/13/09 | Robinson Jeffers (244) | Jeffers Power Point

10/15/09 | e. e. cummings (343) | Cummings Power Point

Week 8

10/20/09 | Fall Break

10/22/09 | Hart Crane (384) | Crane Power Point

Week 9

10/27/09 | Crane (ctd.) | Critical Essay 1 Due

10/29/09 | Langston Hughes (502) | Hughes Power Point

Week 10

11/3/09 | Hughes (ctd.)

11/5/09 | John Crowe Ransom (312), Robert Penn Warren (575), Edna St. Vincent Millay (320), Archibald MacLeish (331) |  | Ransom, et al Power Point | New Criticism Power Point

Week 11

11/10/09 | Elizabeth Bishop (631) | Bishop Power Point

11/12/09 |  Bishop (ctd.)

Week 12

11/17/09 | Theodore Roethke (585), Muriel Rukeyser (655), Gwendolyn Brooks (766), William Stafford (729), Randall Jarrell (713), John Berryman (721), James Wright (890) | Roethke et al Power Point

11/19/09 | Roethke, et al (ctd.)

Week 13

11/24/09 | Frank O’Hara (827), Robert Creeley (875), John Ashbery (894) | O'Hara/Creeley/Ashberry Power Point

11/26/09 | Thanksgiving (no class)

Week 14

12/1/09 | Allen Ginsberg (847), Gary Snyder (955) | Ginsberg/Snyder Power Point

12/3/09 | Sylvia Plath (973), Anne Sexton (921) | Plath/Sexton Power Point | Take Home Final Exam Available

Week 15

12/8/09 | Mary Oliver (1023, Handout) | Oliver Power Point | Critical Essay 2 Due

Week 16

Final Exam Week (December 11-17) | Take-Home Final | In-Class Final Study Sheet | Zip File of All the Poet Power Points