University of Notre Dame

The Death and Return of God in Radical Poetry

Course Number: ENGL 13186-9
Instructor: Romana Huk

This course will introduce students to several of the key upheavals in twentieth-century thought that rocked spiritually-inclined poets, leaving them without easy paths back to devotional art. We will be particularly focused on those British, Irish and American poets whose cutting edge, radical ideas about themselves and culture would shake apart the very syntax of their medium – language – and cause them to write in forms that seemed very strange and even disturbing to unaccustomed eyes. At the crux of our discussions will be the fate of the idea of God in the works of “postmodern” poets whose secular political projects and views of language – “the word” – would conflict at the deepest levels with their desire for belief in divinity. We will focus mostly on the work of small-press writers like Brian Coffey (Ireland), Anglo-Welsh David Jones, Wendy Mulford (England), Fanny Howe and Hank Lazer (U.S.), all of whom have recently emerged, with the help of 21st-Century hindsight, as part of an important group of poet-thinkers engaged in this crucial project of “reconstructing God.” The course will begin with gentle introductions to the problems of reading late-twentieth-century philosophy as well as to the problems of reading poetry as a literary genre. During the semester students will be required to lead class discussion twice, with partners, and write either three short papers or substitute the final one with a creative response (to be accompanied by a written “argument” and approved before start of work).