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20100209-1230 Stevens, Loy, and Williams (Group 2)

Page history last edited by Brian Croxall 10 years, 7 months ago


Class began with the conclusion of the discussion on Robert Frost's poem "Mending Wall." The speaker's problem with the phrase "good fences make good neighbors" is that his neighbor is simply quoting his father and accepting the axioms of previous generations without giving it his own original thought. This idea of rejecting traditional views simply because they are traditional is the very essence of Modernism. The speaker enjoys his walk with his neighbor because he makes it an imaginary act.  When building a wall one creates order, and when there is something that does not love a wall, its desire is to be not neat or ordered. By creating the first two lines of this poem with a random and unstructured scansion, Frost is illustrating a disdain for walls and the structures they put into place.


"Emperor of Ice-Cream" is a poem about life and death.  The first stanza appears to be a funeral,  yet the people attending the funeral are celebrating.  This "funeral" is marked by objects like cigars, ice-cream, and prostitutes.  The second stanza is about death, a woman lying with her face covered up and dead.  The ice-cream itself mirrors the dead woman, she is cold, unimportant and life is short much like how short of a time ice-cream stays cold. While an emperor is usually in his place for a lifetime, ice-cream is only around for several minutes before it begins to disappear. In a general sense, the first stanza is a symbol for life, while the second stanza is a symbol for death. The liveliness of the first stanza is a sharp contrast to the second stanza, which contains more gloomy subject matter. The entire poem is littered with sexual innuendos, and this is a deliberate attempt to show the relationship between life and sex.


Word Count: 300




Mina Loy "Parturition" page 1459    year 1914

"I once heard in a church -- Man and woman God made them -- Thank God."

  • Loy has a sarcastic tone here because she heard once in church that God makes man and women instead of woman having children.  It's as if God just places us on earth and women don't have the pains of labor to deal with.  Loy is making fun of the preacher at church for discrediting women after the pain and long process they go through to have children.  "Parturition" by Mina Loy is about childbirth. Loy's poem is difficult to follow because labor is a difficult process; the structure of the poem reflects that of the pains of labor.  The men in the poem are irresponsible where as the women are superior before they are able to get through the pain. It is the very thing that makes women superior makes them inferior. As mothers women are restricted to a set role.  Loy's poem is about how women are born into pain, into the role of mother and childbirth.


Wallace Stevens "The Emperor of Ice-cream" page 1442  year 1923

"Let be be finale of seem"

  • Stevens is saying don't worry about what things seemto be, see what is.  Instead of thinking about what can be or what you think will be, see things for the way 

the actually are.  No one can help what happens so let things happen. This line gives the poem a Carpe Diem mood. Since one cannot change the outcome of life, one must enjoy it for what it is and let it "be."


William Carlos Williams "The Young Housewife" page 1464   year 1917  

"the wooden walls of her husband's house."

  • It's odd how Williams says it's her husband's house.  As if she is married to the house and the house is her husband's, not an equal belonging.  The wood also mirrors the speaker's comparision of the young housewife to a leaf. This description of her dwelling place as her husband's house creates an image of opression. The life she leads is not hers for the choosing, she is married to her husband the is the wife of the house and as such she has certain duties that are thrust upon her, not allowing her to have a life of her own.  "The Young Housewife" by William Williams is a poem where the speaker compares a young woman to a dried leaf.  The speaker may be calling the young housewife a fallen woman. The description of the woman comes across as if she is in an oppressive situation; she is restricted to her life as a housewife. By describing this young housewife as a fallen leaf the speaker is creating a simile about the woman's current situation. She was once lively and bright, but now that she is in this oppressive setting she has fallen lost her bright personality. The speaker also observes this woman as if he can see through walls; it's the speaker's fantasy or what he imagines is behind the wooden walls. 


Key Terms


High Modernism: extremely experimental, ambiguous, and subjective literature of the Modernist period, written to push the boundaries of literature almost as far as possible. Most often, this is the kind of Modernism that’s the hardest to read.


Scansion:  analysis of the stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry; the meter or rhythm of poetry.


  • Voyeurism – the act of looking in on something or someone who may not know they are being observed; a satisfaction of watching people secretly, especially in various states of undress. 

Comments (5)

vjackso said

at 1:46 pm on Feb 10, 2010

hey guys, just a reminder that there is a word-count limit on the summary. it can only be 250-300 words. bobby, you added a lot of good stuff, but might want to trim it back so it meets the word count limit.

SDavenport said

at 8:48 pm on Feb 10, 2010

Bobby, you did have some great information in the notes. The word count has a max of 300 words. Also we're only suppose to have 3 passages, I'm not sure which one to get rid of though.
If anyone reads these comments, you can go to the page history and look at what Bobby wrote, because it is great information.

SDavenport said

at 9:09 pm on Feb 10, 2010

Okay, so ignore the last comment except for the fact we are only suppose to have 3 passages. So I kept what Amilee (sorry if I spelled your name wrong) added about Frost and Stevens. Then I put what was said about Williams and Loy under the passages. That gives us 300 words for the summary and the other information is still there. It wasn't possible to get rid of all that information, which I looked...Amilee, thanks for that.

vjackso said

at 11:14 am on Feb 11, 2010

ok sorry for getting everyone's work mixed up! also i got rid of the passage for Frost - just because i figured that the other passages were more important - since the focus on the class was technically on Stevens, Loy and Williams. seemed like Frost was the easiest cut to make.

Brian Croxall said

at 5:49 pm on Feb 16, 2010

This is a pretty 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. What's more, you also had the Frost to contend with. You solved the problem of how to cover everything and stay within the requirements of the assignment by discussing different poems in the passages and in the summary. So good job with that.

There are two places where the summary can be improved. First, it would be nice to have a connective thread uniting all of the subjects that we'd discussed. The creative act was an important subject for our day's reading, and it could have anchored your discussion of what followed. Thinking about how everything can be organized around one or two main ideas helps to make the summary more than just a rehearsal of how we read the poems.

Second, I believe the sentences within each paragraph of the summary could be rearranged in order to have them read more naturally. You start by discussing the final point of our discussion of "Mending Wall," and you end the paragraph by talking about the scansion, which was the first thing that we discussed. You certainly don't have to write these notes chronologically, but I'm not sure that I understand why this particular order was chosen. And if there isn't a reason why, then perhaps it's safer sticking to the logic of what was done in class.

A similar thing seems to happen in your passages. You start off explaining the portion of the poem that you have chosen but by the end of, say, your explanation of "Parturition," you are talking about something that has nothing to do with the quotation in question, such as the irresponsibility of men. Try to keep the passages focused on the lines in question--and feel free to use more than a half-phrase to get further in doing so.

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