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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications


Lisa M. Steinman, Kenan Professor of English and Humanities at Reed College, will lead a five-week summer seminar at Reed supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The seminar, "The Place of Poetry in Modern America: Stevens, Williams, and Moore," will bring to Reed 15 American high school teachers, from as far afield as Japan, from July 12 to August 13. This is the fifth NEH summer seminar that Steinman has led at Reed College, all of which have been about some aspect of poetry's place in the world.

The objectives of Steinman's seminar are to enable close readings of some difficult but rewarding poetry by William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, and Wallace Stevens; to set modernist poetry in a historical context, to see how the poets were responding to and helping shape American attitudes about the arts; and to evaluate the poets' ideas--many of which are still current--about poetry's place and function in modern American society.

This seminar grows directly out of Steinman's teaching and scholarly interests. Her publications have primarily focused on Moore, Stevens, Williams, and on other aspects of American modernism in the visual arts, and include a book on the place of poetry in modern America, Made in America (Yale University Press, 1987), as well as a more recent book, Masters of Repetition (St. Martin's Press, 1998), on the place of poetry in earlier Anglo-American culture. A poet herself--a 1993 winner of the Oregon Institute for Literary Arts's Hazel Hall Award for poetry--Steinman has a real sense of the urgency of these questions about the value and definition of American poetry and more broadly about the audience for poetry in English in modern culture.

The National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal agency, supports yearly summer seminars and institutions at colleges and universities so that teachers can study with experts in humanities disciplines. Topics for the 29 seminars and institutes offered for teachers nationwide this summer include Shakespeare, American history, Arabic literature and history, poetry, and autobiography. The more than 500 teachers who participate in these studies will teach over 30,000 American students the following year.