About this Course

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Beginner Level
Approx. 67 hours to complete
Subtitles: English
100% online
Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Flexible deadlines
Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.
Beginner Level
Approx. 67 hours to complete
Subtitles: English

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University of Pennsylvania

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

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Week 1

6 hours to complete

chapter 1.1 (week 1)—Whitman & Dickinson, two proto-modernists

6 hours to complete
12 videos (Total 244 min), 11 readings, 2 quizzes
12 videos
watch video on Dickinson's "Tell all the truth but tell it slant"15m
watch further discussion on "Tell all the truth"10m
watch video on Emily Dickinson's "The Brain within its Groove" (part 1)15m
watch video on Emily Dickinson's "The Brain within its Groove" (part 2)13m
watch video on Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" (part 1)24m
watch video on Walt Whitman's “Song of Myself” (part 2)21m
watch video on canto 47 of "Song of Myself"21m
watch discussion of Divya Victor's "W is for Walt Whitman's Soul"28m
(alt.) watch abridged video on Victor's "W Is for Walt..."18m
watch Divya Victor discuss "W is for Walt Whitman's Soul"33m
watch video discussion of the Whitmanian and Dickinsonian modes18m
11 readings
introduction to chapter 1, week 1: audio & transcript15m
read Emily Dickinson's “I dwell in Possibility”2m
listen to Al Filreis recite "I dwell in Possibility"1m
read Dickinson's "Tell all the truth but tell it slant"2m
read Dickinson's "The Brain within its Groove"2m
(optional) watch condensed video on Dickinson's "Brain within its Groove"10m
read sections 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 14, 47 & 52 of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”20m
listen to recordings of “Song of Myself”20m
read Al Filreis on canto 8 of "Song of Myself"10m
read Divya Victor's "W is for Walt Whitman's Soul10m
watch or listen to Divya Victor read "W is for Walt Whitman's Soul"10m
2 practice exercises
on "Possibility" in Emily Dickinson's "I dwell in Possibility"2m
on the dash in Emily Dickinson’s “I dwell in Possibility”2m

Week 2

4 hours to complete

chapter 1.2 (week 2)—Whitmanians & Dickinsonians

4 hours to complete
9 videos (Total 132 min), 22 readings, 2 quizzes
9 videos
watch video on William Carlos Williams's "Danse Russe"19m
watch video on Allen Ginsberg's "A Supermarket in California"15m
watch video on Lorine Niedecker's "Grandfather Advised Me"13m
watch video on Lorine Niedecker's "You are my friend"12m
watch video on Lorine Niedecker's "Foreclosure"8m
watch video on Cid Corman's "It isnt for want"14m
watch video on Rae Armantrout's "The Way"21m
watch video on distinctions between “Dickinsonian” and “Whitmanian” proto-modernism11m
22 readings
introduction to week 2: audio & transcript11m
read William Carlos Williams’s “Smell!”2m
listen to Williams perform “Smell!”1m
read/listen to "Smell!" in text-audio alignment1m
read Williams's "Danse Russe"2m
listen to Williams perform "Danse Russe"1m
read/listen to “Danse Russe” in text-audio alignment1m
read Allen Ginsberg's “A Supermarket in California”5m
listen to Ginsberg perform “A Supermarket in California”2m
read/listen to Ginsberg's “A Supermarket in California” as text-audio alignment2m
read Lorine Niedecker's “Grandfather advised me”2m
read Lorine Niedecker's “You are my friend”2m
read Lorine Niedecker's “Foreclosure”2m
listen to Lorine Niedecker perform “Foreclosure”1m
listen to a 30-minute discussion of “Foreclosure” (& another short poem)30m
read Cid Corman's "It isnt for want"2m
listen to Cid Corman perform “It isnt for want”1m
read Rae Armantrout's “The Way”2m
listen to Rae Armantrout perform “The Way”1m
listen to Rae Armantrout talk briefly about “The Way”5m
listen to PoemTalk discussion of “The Way”30m
essay assignment #110m
2 practice exercises
on Niedecker's "Grandfather advised me"2m
on Corman's "It isnt for want"2m

Week 3

4 hours to complete

chapter 2.1 (week 3)—the rise of poetic modernism: imagism

4 hours to complete
6 videos (Total 106 min), 12 readings, 1 quiz
6 videos
watch video on Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro"11m
watch video on Ezra Pound's "The Encounter"13m
watch further discussion on "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"9m
watch a discussion of Tonya Foster's haiku (with the poet)26m
watch a PoemTalk discussion of Tonya Foster's haiku23m
12 readings
introduction to week 3: audio & transcript25m
imagism briefly defined5m
read H.D.'s "Sea Rose"5m
read Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro"2m
read Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" as it appeared in Poetry magazine2m
read a selection of critical commentary on "In a Station of the Metro"10m
watch brief further discussion of Pound's "In a Station of the Metro"2m
read Ezra Pound's "The Encounter"5m
read Wallace Stevens's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"5m
listen to a discussion of Stevens's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"28m
read haiku from Tonya Foster's "A Swarm of Bees in High Court"10m
essay #1: write reviews of others' essays10m
1 practice exercise
on "In a Station of the Metro"1m
3 hours to complete

chapter 2.2 (week 3 cont.)—the rise of poetic modernism: Williams

3 hours to complete
7 videos (Total 90 min), 21 readings, 1 quiz
7 videos
watch video on Williams's "Between Walls"9m
watch video on Williams’s “This Is Just to Say”12m
watch video on Williams's "The Red Wheelbarrow"12m
watch video discussion on Duchamp’s “Fountain”23m
watch video on Williams's "Portrait of a Lady"10m
on Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase"11m
21 readings
read William Carlos Williams's "Lines"2m
read William Carlos Williams's "Between Walls"5m
listen to Williams reading "Between Walls"1m
read/listen with text-audio alignment to Williams's "Between Walls"1m
listen to PoemTalk discussion of "Between Walls"30m
read William Carlos Williams's "This Is Just to Say"5m
read Flossie Williams's reply to "This Is Just to Say"5m
listen to William Carlos Williams's explanation of “This Is Just to Say”2m
listen to five recordings of Williams reading "This Is Just to Say"5m
listen to five recordings of Williams reading “This Is Just to Say” as text-audio alignment5m
read William Carlos Williams's "The Red Wheelbarrow"5m
listen to four recordings of Williams reading “The Red Wheelbarrow”3m
listen to four recordings of Williams performing “The Red Wheelbarrow” as text-audio alignment3m
watch further discussion of Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow”6m
look at a photograph of Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” at the Philadephia Museum of Art5m
watch a museum-goer’s video of Duchamp’s “Fountain” on display at SFMoMA1m
read William Carlos Williams's, “The rose is obsolete”5m
listen to a 6-minute close reading of “The rose is obsolete”6m
read William Carlos Williams's, "Portrait of a Lady"5m
listen to 3 recordings of Williams performing “Portrait of a Lady”5m
look at Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase”5m
1 practice exercise
on Williams's "Between Walls"2m

Week 4

4 hours to complete

chapter 2.3 (week 4)—the rise of poetic modernism: Stein

4 hours to complete
7 videos (Total 108 min), 27 readings, 1 quiz
7 videos
watch further discussion on "A Long Dress"5m
watch video on Stein's "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"18m
watch video on "Water Raining" and "Malachite"17m
watch video on Stein's ideas about narrative, composition, repeating & nouns22m
watch video on Stein's "Let Us Describe"11m
watch video on Stein's "If I Told Him"20m
27 readings
introduction to week 4: audio & transcript17m
read Stein's "A Long Dress" from Tender Buttons5m
read Marjorie Perloff's comment on Stein and in particular on "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"10m
read Gertrude Stein, "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass," from the "Objects" section of Tender Buttons5m
watch video of Laynie Browne discussing "A Carafe" and the "Objects" section of Tender Buttons6m
listen to Jackson Mac Low's 1978 performance of Stein's "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"3m
listen to Jackson Mac Low's close reading of "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"1m
watch video on Stein’s phrase “not unordered in not resembling”2m
read Stein's "Water Raining" and "Malachite" from Tender Buttons10m
watch Bob Perelman on Stein's use of the continuous present tense1m
watch Ron Silliman on how each Stein poem creates its own definition of reading1m
watch discussion of the pleasure to be gotten from Stein's “linguistic-ness”4m
read Stein on narrative5m
read Stein on the noun5m
read Stein on repetition5m
read Stein on composition5m
listen to Joan Retallack reading some propositions from Stein’s “Composition as Explanation”4m
condensed version of video on Stein's ideas about narrative, composition & nouns [alternative]10m
watch further discussion on the noun & loving repeating6m
read Gertrude Stein's "Let Us Describe"5m
read Stein’s “If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso”5m
listen to Stein perform “If I Told Him”4m
read/listen with text-audio alignment of Stein's "If I Told Him"4m
watch a dance choreographed to Stein's “If I Told Him”2m
read Ulla Dydo's prefatory comment on "If I Told Him"2m
listen to Marjorie Perloff speaking about Stein’s portraits2m
essay assignment #210m
1 practice exercise
on "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"2m
2 hours to complete

chapter 2.4 (week 4 cont.)—the rise of poetic modernism: modernist edges

2 hours to complete
3 videos (Total 38 min), 11 readings, 1 quiz
3 videos
watch video on Tristan Tzara's "To Make a Dadaist Poem"14m
watch video on Bishop's "A Recollection" and the sonnet in modernism8m
11 readings
read Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven’s “A Dozen Cocktails—Please”5m
explore the archived manuscript of "A Dozen Cocktails—Please"10m
read Williams on the Baroness10m
listen to a brief bio of the Baroness2m
listen to a passage from Kenneth Rexroth’s account of the Baroness3m
read Tristan Tzara’s “To Make a Dadaist Poem”5m
re-read Tzara’s “To Make a Dadaist Poem” in an introduction to "chance operations"5m
watch a film-illustration of “To Make a Dadaist Poem”2m
read about the sonnet as a form7m
read William Carlos Williams on the sonnet2m
read John Peale Bishop, "A Recollection"5m
1 practice exercise
on Tzara's "To Make a Dadaist Poem"2m



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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Access to lectures and assignments depends on your type of enrollment. If you take a course in audit mode, you will be able to see most course materials for free. To access graded assignments and to earn a Certificate, you will need to purchase the Certificate experience, during or after your audit. If you don't see the audit option:

    • The course may not offer an audit option. You can try a Free Trial instead, or apply for Financial Aid.
    • The course may offer 'Full Course, No Certificate' instead. This option lets you see all course materials, submit required assessments, and get a final grade. This also means that you will not be able to purchase a Certificate experience.
  • Yes, ModPo is entirely free. There are no charges for any aspect of the course.

  • No. You need not know anything about poetry in order to thrive in ModPo. So ModPo is for those who are new to poetry. It is for those who have perhaps always loved poetry but have not yet studied modern and/or experimental poetry. And it is also for poets and teachers who want to see what happens when a community of thousands comes together to talk about poems such folks already know well. In short, ModPo will work, in some way, for anyone and everyone! You will encounter people in ModPo who were once novices but are now participating in the course for a second, third or fourth time! We’re all in this together.

  • Yes, but our certificate is unique to ModPo, our own design. In order to receive the special ModPo certificate of completion, you must: 1) post a comment in at least one poem-specific discussion forum for each of ModPo's ten weekly sections; 2) write and submit all four writing assignments; 3) write and submit at least four peer reviews for each of the 4 assignments (at least 16 total); and 4) take and pass all quizzes (you can retake them until you pass).

  • The ModPo site is open all year, accessible to anyone who enrolls for free. Each year, though, we convene for an intense 10-week session from early September to late November. During that time, Al Filreis and his colleagues, the TAs and Community TAs (“mentors”) are all constantly available, and the discussion forums are quite active and your ModPo colleagues will respond to your questions and comments almost instantly. During this annual 10-week ModPo session or "symposium," the TAs each offer weekly office hours each. And we host our weekly live webcasts. During the rest of the year—ModPo’s “off season” or what ModPo’ers call “SloPo”—discussions continue intermittently and in small groups. During that time, too, new poems and new videos are added to ModPoPLUS and the Teacher Resource Center. You are welcome to finish the course in the off season if you could not complete it during the 10-week session. Teachers and their students are encouraged to use the site as part of a class. Reading groups are also encourage to convene around the ModPo materials. If you enroll in ModPo you will continue to be enrolled unless or until you decide to un-enroll. We hope you will continue to participate.

  • We're proud of the fame of our webcasts. They are quite innovative. During the 10-week September-to-November session of the course, we host a fully interactive live webcast, broadcasting from the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia each week. You can participate by calling in by phone, by leaving a voicemail prior to the live session, by tweeting, by posting to the ModPo discussion forum, by commenting in our Periscope feed, or by coming in person to the Writers House. If you miss any live webcast, you can watch the recording later. Participation in ModPo webcasts are not part of the requirements for the certificate, but those who have been part of them have found them helpful and fun.

  • Yes, it is a 10-week course.* But it is also an ongoing interpretive community. And it is an always open meeting place for people who want to talk about modern poetry. And it is an aid to teachers who are teaching poetry to their students. And it is an ever-expanding archive of resources (ModPoPLUS, the Teacher Resource Center, the Crowdsourced Close Readings videos).

    [* Indeed, ModPo is based on a course that has been taught by Al Filreis at the University of Pennsylvania since 1985.]

  • Al Filreis is Kelly Professor of English, Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House, Director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, Co-Director of PennSound, Publisher of “Jacket2” magazine—all at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has been a member of the faculty and administrator since 1985. He has published many essays on modern and contemporary American poetry, on the literary history of the 1930s and 1950s, on the literary politics of the Cold War, on the end of the lecture, and on digital humanities pedagogy. Among his books are “Modernism from Right to Left,” “Wallace Stevens and the Actual World,” and “Counter-Revolution of the Word: The Conservative Attack on Modern Poetry, 1945-60.“ He produces and hosts a monthly podcast/radio program, “PoemTalk,” co-sponsored by the Poetry Foundation. He has hosted three eminent writers for residencies each spring through the Kelly Writers House Fellows Program since 1999. He has won many teaching awards at Penn, was named Pennsylvania Professor of the Year in 2000 by the Carnegie Foundation, was named one of the Top Ten Tech Innovators in Higher Education for 2013 by the Chronicle of Higher Education, and received the first Faculty Innovation Prize from Coursera. He founded ModPo in 2012, one of the very first humanities MOOCs; he has been teaching a version of the ModPo course online since 1995.

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