Universität Augsburg, 2012 and 2016

“Let us wage a war on totality” – Jean-François Lyotard’s appeal has come to epitomize the postmodern condition. On the one hand associated with a contemporary avantgarde, on the other hand singularly engaged with popular and consumer cultures,  postmodernism is, fundamentally, an ongoing project of resistance towards mainstream – or any – ideology.

In this seminar, we explore postmodernist poetry with two aims in mind: the main focus is, of course, the literary text itself: we study the specific contents and forms of poetic expression with which authors interpret and develop the postmodernist project; the chosen texts will provide an overview of relevant U.S. American poetry that starts with the Beat movement, and leads up very much to the present-day, to question the fate of postmodern irony and playfulness in a post-9/11 age of global terrorism.

 Postmodernism, however, lives off interconnections and exchange; to do justice to this diverse culture this seminar does not treat poetry as an isolated phenomenon, but investigates its relations to other forms of cultural expressions such as performance, music, or the fine arts.

List of Texts and Topics:


  • The Beat Generation: Jazz and Poetry in Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues
  • Poetry & Abstract Expressionism: Michael McClure, “Ode to Jackson Pollock”
  • Projectivist Poetry:  Black Mountain College poetics
  • Love in Postmodern Poetry: James Laughlin, “The Inn at Kirchstetten” and Robert Duncan, “The Torso”
  • Poetry and Dance: Excerpts from John Cage’s “Sixty-Two Mesostics Re Merce Cunningham”
  • The New York Poets: Kenneth Koch, “Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams,” Ted Berrigan, Selected Poems from the Sonnets
  • Language Poetry: Lyn Hejinian, Excerpts from My Life
  • Poetry and Space: Jackson MacLow’s Poetic Spaces (A” Vocabulary for Anne Brigitte Gilles Tardos”)
  • Confessional Poetry: Robert Lowell, “Sailing Home from Rapallo,” “During Fever;” “Man and Wife;” Sylvia Plath, “The Applicant”
  • Performance Poetry: Dial-A-Poem and the Giorno Poetry Systems