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20100209-11 Stevens, Loy, and Williams (Group 2)

Page history last edited by Kelsey Lundstrom 10 years, 8 months ago


     The beginning of the 20th century was the beginning of a new literary movement. With advancements in science and technology, in particular, Albert Einstein's proposal of the "Special Theory of Relativity," the objectivity of Realism and Naturalism was replaced by Modernism. Modernism was essentially a subjective rejection of tradition, with a newfound presence of a stream of consciousness. Modernist writers often experiment with new forms like imagism and primitivism, bringing new life to old poetic themes and genres. 

     In Mina Loy’s Parturition, a woman is in the process of giving birth. Giving birth is an act that is only available to the female half of the population. Loy describes women as the "Superior Inferiority" because a woman's role in society was viewed as inferior, yet she is superior because she is the only sex that can keep life going. In her poem, she describes men as “irresponsible”, while women are shown as the authors of life.   

     In Wallace Steven’s Anecdote of the Jar, we are shown a man placing a jar on a hill in the middle of the wilderness. Interpretations of the jar vary, but the jar itself doesn't mean anything, the placement of it changes the way we see it. Perhaps the jar is poetry-- words alone have no meaning, however when put together into poems, the perspective is shaped and changed. 

     William Carlos Williams’ The Red Wheelbarrow is a great example of imagism. Williams chose descriptive and contrasting words to paint an image in our minds without further details present to muddle our thoughts. We are left to imagine our own red wheelbarrow, which may be a better scene than he thought he could describe himself. The poetry depends on the wheelbarrow and if we can't see the wheelbarrow in a new light, then it has failed.


Word Count: 300



1). "The irresponsibility of the male

Leaves woman her superior Inferiority

He is running up-stairs 


I am climbing a distorted mountain of agony

Incidentally with the exhaustion of control

I reach the summit" - Mina Loy "Parturition"


     In this section of her poem "Parturition," Mina Loy reveals the struggles behind childbirth, comparing the process of contractions to scaling a mountain. She also uses this to show the strength of women compared to that of men. Views at the time held women at an inferior status, but Loy claims that women are superior because of strictly feminine things (childbirth), because they create life within themselves. Men, she claims, are irresponsible to the challenge. Their obliviousness to a woman's suffering makes them intellectually inferior despite their physical superiority to a pregnant woman. Notice also the lack of punctuation and the way the lines are broken up. This is a great example of a Modernist author experimenting with new forms. The lack of grammatical accuracy is the new form here. The breaking up of lines here gives the poem a more realistic feel, almost as if these were the exact, subconscious thoughts of a women in childbirth recorded as they happened. This stream of consciousness is another characteristic of modernist poetry.


2). "so much depends          



     a red wheel 



     glazed with rain



     beside the white

     chicken" - William Carlos Williams "The Red Wheelbarrow"


     Williams's poem is a perfect example of Imagism, an offshoot of Modernism, in which an author gives direct treatment of "the thing", whatever that might be. Williams is using a minimalistic approach of as few words as possible. The important thing here is to maintain every words' importance. We can clearly see that Williams chose all of his words very carefully. Words such as "glazed" evoke a much stronger image than, say, "wet" or "damp." Also, he provides a great contrast of color between the "red wheel barrow" and "the white chickens." As a final note, the way in which he breaks up his lines is very interesting. The way in which the stanzas are broken up seems to create the shape of a wheelbarrow itself, thus serving to subconsciously get our brains fastened to the concept of a wheelbarrow.


3). "It made the slovenly wilderness

     Surround that hill.


     The wilderness rose up to it,

     And sprawled around, no longer wild." - Wallace Steven "Anecdote of the Jar"


     In this particular section of the poem, the round jar transforms the 'slovenly' wilderness, everything is messy until the jar is placed down. The jar was described as making the woods not slovenly, which was an odd way to describe the effect that the jar has on nature. Although jars can't actually tame the wilderness, once it is there everything seems to fall in place. The jar itself does not impact the wilderness, but the placement of it changes the way the wilderness is seen.



Key Terms


Parturition- The act of giving birth.

Modernism - Literature that involves subjective science and technology, primitivism, experimentalism, modern experience, stream of conscious, makes it new by rejecting old traditions and uses reflexive poetry -- poetry about poetry.


Comments (1)

Brian Croxall said

at 5:32 pm on Feb 16, 2010

This is a very good set of notes for a relatively difficult day to take notes for. As opposed to many of our class sessions, I didn't exert quite as strong a will on where the class discussion was going, which means that it's harder to tease out a narrative for the day. But your summary gives a brief overview of the poems that we discussed and your passages make the connections even more palpable. I would have expected to see you define "high modernism"--but I'll admit that that could have been tricky since I told you that it was a very loose term to begin with. I was also a bit surprised to see your first summary paragraph since we didn't talk so much about the definition of modernism (or Einstein) on this day of class. Still, it's not terrible to get a refresher.

I like your explanation of the passages very much. I would probably want you to re-word two points to make them more clear. First, in "Parturition," the women is shown to be superior because she is in the act of childbirth and is climbing a mountain as opposed to the measly stairs that the man is climbing. You're right that she i "inferior" because society doesn't value what she does. But I would be careful to make it clear that her inferiority grows out of that thing that gives her superiority. She is only inferior because she does this thing that makes her superior. Second, I would have liked to see you spell out the reading of what depends on the red wheelbarrow just a touch more since it is a delicate and potentially tricky point.

Finally, it bears mentioning that the title of poems should be placed in quotation marks rather than in italics. All said, however, you should be very proud of this work.

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