The New York School (HS) Summer 2014

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The movement known as the New York School encompassed an intimate community of artists, poets, dancers, and musicians forged in the avant-garde art scenes of 1950s Manhattan. Drawing on French surrealism, modernist poetics, and a budding Beat sensibility, the first generation of writers to earn this moniker included John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler and Barbara Guest. This course will set sights on the works of these key figures, while attending to some of the cultural orbits surrounding the “School” (a term they rejected) along the way. We will be reading a great deal of challenging, but fun, poetry this semester. O’Hara and company were insistently experimental in their verse, testing the limits of representation and poetic form. They used language to cultivate and strengthen a creative “counterpublic” to the academic and political mainstream. In addition to examining the craft and communities of this poetic avant-garde, student presentations will reconstruct mid-century American contexts, situating the group within a variety of cultural movements, such as abstract expressionism, cool jazz, and improvisational theater, and against the social background of the Cold War.

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