Comp Lit 404: Asian Poetry in the World Picture

This is basically a class on what happens to Western poetry (mainly that written in English and French) and, by the end of things, all poetry (including that which we think of as “world” poetry) when it encounters forms, styles, and modes that emerge from East Asia. We’ll begin with the minor revolution in the treatment of Asian poetry inaugurated by Ezra Pound (in English) and Victor Segalen (in French), exploring what happens in the encounter between Asianness and modernism, before moving on to consider some mid-century Americans (Rexroth, Snyder, and Kerouac), who picked up on the work of the early modernists and turned it in some new directions (including the direction of Japan). Following on from the American pseudo-Buddhists, we’ll consider the international formal success story that is the haiku (along with the sonnet probably the only poetic form most people have heard of) for a few weeks. We’ll close out the course with a brief review of the problem of authenticity as it emerged in the 1990s around the Chinese poet Bei Dao and the American one Kent Johnson, before moving on to some poetry that calls the utility of the category of authenticity (and indeed of conventional theories of translation) entirely, and excitingly, into question.

Download the Course Syllabus

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