Stanford University
ENGLISH 357F: Poetry and Culture in America: Post-War to Cold War
Winter 2007

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The Second World War has frequently been described as the hinge-point of 20th century history. Before the war, the primary focus of power in the world was Europe and its empires. After the war, Europe was in ruins, its empires were gone or rapidly disappearing, its moral and historical co-ordinates had been shattered. Global hegemony had now shifted, apparently permanently, away from Europe and towards two non-European behemoths, the USA and the USSR. They would soon be joined as the arbiters of the world’s future by another non-European great power, communist China. (The word “super-power”, like the word “genocide”, was a linguistic child of that moment, coined to express new geo-political realities that were emerging in the war’s last stages.)

Coinciding with these momentous historical developments was a feeling within the poetic world in the United States that modernism had come to an end, that the “end of the line” had been reached. If this is true, then what came next? This course sets out to chart the “terminal days” of modernism and the emergence within a very few years of a set of new poetic paradigms in the years between the final stages of the Second World War and the opening stages of the Cold War. These were the paradigms that set the terms for most of the major developments in poetry for the next 40 years and it was during the period between the mid-1940s and the start of the 1950s that many of the most important writers of the following decades rose to prominence.

The period between the end of the Second World War and the onset of the Cold War was extremely brief. On the global stage, it was a time of intense ideological ferment, a span of years that determined the shape of history for four ensuing decades. So it turned out as well in the world of poetry.

Meeting Time & Place
F 1.15-4.05 - Bldg. 60, Rm. 62A

Instructors Office Hours & Location
Nicholas Jenkins M 9.15-10.45, F 9.45-11.15, Bldg. 460, Rm. 213

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