MLA students attend class at Burnt Norton

Over July 15-24, 2011, Stanford MLA students and alumni took MLA 283: Three 20th-century Minds: Eliot, Pound, and Yeats, at the Burnt Norton Centre for the Literary Arts in Chipping Capden, England.

The seminar, taught by Stanford Professor of English, Emeritus, Willam Chace, took place at Burnt Norton, the site made famous by T.S. Eliot's poem. Students had intense days of study, followed by evenings attending theatre in Shakespeare's own Stratford-upon-Avon.

Course Description

This seminar proposes to bring together three of the most influential and creative poets of the twentieth century -- T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Willam Butler Yeats -- under the rubric of one of Eliot's lines, "These fragments I have shored against my ruins." The class will consider ways in which each of these revolutionary poets came to tems with what he saw as the enroaching chaos of the early twentieth century. Eliot, witnessing what he believed was a loss of religious stability and cultural homogeneity, envisioned a return to traditional Christianity as the only means by which the avalanche could be staved off. Pound believed that a nefarious conspiracy involving munitions-makers, bankers, Jews, and liberals had assumed control of Western civilzation and only very strong political leadership (i.e., fascism) could turn things around. Yeats, the mildest-minded and most diffident of the three, contended (now and again) that the rise of a middle-class Irish bourgeoisie ("fumbling in a greasy till") was preventing his nation from achieving its rightful cultural patrimony and its recovery of its ancient mythical past. The class will read a good deal of the poetry of each of these writers and will engage in discussions pointing to the ways in which the language of each poet can be read under the aegis of his historical, political, and cultural visions.