When I first began teaching in the MAT program at Bard in 2011, I was asked to propose a graduate course based on the standard areas of study within the literature track, which includes a “major authors” course. I had just completed a dissertation on gender and American poetry after 1945, in which all my major figures were marginalized women poets but in which I had frequently turned to Williams as the major figure of masculine modernism to whom many poets writing after 1945 turn — and away from whom they turn, also. I had become increasingly fascinated with literary inheritance and disavowal, and how theories of gender and identity might help us understand how poetic form behaves genealogically. I kept coming back to Williams as a beloved and contentious figure for American poets both major and marginalized.
In summer 2012, I’ll be writing a series of short commentaries devoted to my course Literature 512: William Carlos Williams, a graduate seminar in the Bard College Master of Arts in Teaching program. Students on the literature track in the MAT program are asked to take at least one course devoted to a “major author,” and I chose Williams because of the very way his work questions the notion of major and minor literature, the singularity of the individual author, and the relevance of the “major author” for twentieth-century poetics.