The poetry of modernity: Baudelaire, Dickinson, Rilke, Mandelstam

Course Dates: 25/01/24 - 14/03/24
Time: 10:15 - 12:15
Location: Online
Follow the paths taken by four of the most courageous, life-affirming, uncompromisingly individual poets of the modern era, as they confront the challenges of psychological, sexual and artistic alienation (Baudelaire), religious and political conformity (Dickinson and Mandelstam), and of a world lost to materialism and the march of technology, devoid of all spirituality (Rilke: “You must change your life”).
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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Full fee £179.00 Senior fee £143.00 Concession £116.00

Course Code: HLT135

Thu, day, 25 Jan - 14 Mar '24

Duration: 8 sessions (over 8 weeks)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

This online literature course will take us from mid-19th century Paris and Massachusetts to the Swiss Alps and Soviet Urals of the 1920s and 1930s, thus spanning the historical period generally identified as modernist and at the same time fully representing its internationalism. The formal adventurousness and creative, visionary power of the writers concerned, reviled, marginalised or brutally suppressed in their lifetimes, have had an immeasurable influence on succeeding generations of poets and the freedoms they now enjoy to test the limits, intellectual and emotional, of their art. We will explore, in depth, seminal poems drawn from the following collections:

• Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal (1857)
• Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems (1840s-80s)
• Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus (1912-22)
• Osip Mandelstam, Stone (1913) and Voronezh Notebooks (1935-7).

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

Calm down, my Sorrow, we must move with care” …“I dwell in possibility” … “Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything” … “Only in Russia poetry is respected – it gets people killed” …

Four astonishing voices: Baudelaire the herald of a feverish new urban world of decadent sensuality and mythic archetypes; Dickinson the most defiantly original, personal and experimental of all 19th century American poets; Rilke the arch anti-modernist and advocate of a necessary new religiosity of the self, art and nature in poems of astonishing compression and lyrical force; and Mandelstam, arguably the most cosmopolitan, intellectually gifted and formally adventurous of all the Russian poets of his generation, whose extraordinary productivity in the direst conditions is perhaps the fullest expression we have of modernism’s capacity to generate hope in a world terrorised by power.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Discuss the featured poems with some critical sophistication and technical knowledge
• Explore other poems by the four poets with an understanding of their place within each oeuvre, its governing themes and characteristic methods
• Use these texts as springboards for further investigation of the relationship between modernist poetry and its cultural and intellectual backgrounds.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

Some previous literary study would be helpful though anyone who enjoys close reading and is willing to take part in discussion is welcome.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

There will be a variety of teaching methods, including direct tutor input, power point, video and audio clips. There will be opportunities to express why individually we are participating on the course and what we hope to take away from it. No set work outside class, apart from reading the selections of poems the tutor will send digitally before each session.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

If you’d like to buy editions of the poets, this is not necessary for our study purposes, but I recommend the Oxford Worlds Classics’ Flowers of Evil and Rilke Selected Poems, Faber’s Collected Emily Dickinson, Harvill Press for Mandelstam’s Stone and New York Review Books’ Voronezh Notebooks.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

This tutor is also teaching HLT189 Contemporary Ukranian Fiction and Poetry and HLT07 Beckett and The Divine Comedy. For these and other literature courses please look on the web at under History, Culture and Writing/Literature.

Stephen Winfield

Stephen Winfield has lectured in English for over thirty years. He taught Language and Literature at Richmond upon Thames College in Twickenham from 1989 to 2017, and was Coordinator of the International Baccalaureate there from 2004 to 2016. He has also lectured in English Literature at the University of Katowice in Poland and taught Business English in Paris. He has taught a range of EFL courses at Richmond College, for the Bell School of Languages, the Sinoscope Project at Kings College London and the BBC Summer School. He has taught classes in English, American and International Literature at City Lit since 2014.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.