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HomeEvents/Courses"Life Stories": Introducing William Carlos Williams's Paterson -- CANCELED

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"Life Stories": Introducing William Carlos Williams's Paterson -- CANCELED

William Carlos Williams’s long poem Paterson was published as a series of four books in the years immediately following WW2 (1946–1951) with a fifth book added to complete the series several years later (1958). Most often read as a poetic sequence about the city of Paterson, NJ, and a modernist “epic” the length of an ordinary novel, the poem contains the story of a protagonist under many guises — “Noah F. Paterson,” “Dr. Paterson,” et al. — in the tradition of other modernist works such as Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. The poem also interweaves different narratives in a collage of “life stories” centered in the world of the present but recalling the historical past of the United States (Sam Patch, Alexander Hamilton), the worlds of science and medicine (Marie Curie), lives of visual artists (Henri Tolouse-Lautrec, Peter Breughel) and ancient and contemporary writers (Sappho, Allen Ginsberg), as well as less-well and all but unknown other figures. Approaching the poem from the perspective of “life stories,” we will explore the poem as a counter to “minds like beds always made up.” What is the significance of these stories clustered around a place, reflecting on and refracting through each other, “a song / of a man and a woman: the riddle of a man / and a woman”? What do they have to say to each other? To us? We will read each of the five books and the author’s retrospective comments on the poem (in the edition prepared by Christopher MacGowan, 1992/1995) to explore its significance, humor, and insight. Class Limit: 20


Instructor Stephen Hahn is professor of English, emeritus, William Paterson University. He serves on the executive council of the William Carlos Williams Society and is a member of the editorial advisory board of the William Carlos Williams Review. Teaching next door to Paterson, NJ, for nearly forty years, Steve explored the geographical, historical, and biographical background of Williams’s long poem “on the ground” and in the tradition of American “epic” poems (such as Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Hart Crane’s The Bridge.) He was a consultant and participant in the BBC Radio-North docudrama “A Traveler’s Guide to Paterson” (2015) written by Michael Symons Roberts, and was the co-editor of a volume commemorating the 225th anniversary of Paterson titled Paterson Lives (2017). He has taught several courses at CSC.




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Wednesday, January 17, 2024, 9:30 AM until Wednesday, February 21, 2024, 11:30 AM
on Zoom - Zoom link will be sent by email close to the start of the first class

Additional Info:
Event Contact(s):
Stephen Hahn
Winter 2024
Registration is not Required
Payment In Full In Advance Only
You must be an active CSC member to register for this course.
Cancellation Policy:
A member may cancel a course registration up to 3 days prior to the start of class and will receive a course credit that can be used for a future registration. No refunds will be given.
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