Pictures from an Institution: A Comedy

Mark Ford writes:

Born in 1914, Randall Jarrell belonged to the first generation of American poets who found a ready home in the country’s burgeoning university system. Of the great modernists of the previous era, only Robert Frost assumed the role of pedagogue to undergraduates, taking his first job at Amherst College in 1917. Pound, Eliot, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Hart Crane all lived by other means; though it’s worth pointing out that the poetry and criticism of Eliot in particular, and to a lesser extent of Pound, played a significant role in shaping the curriculum and methodologies these expanding departments adopted. Certainly those who fell under the sway of the New Critics, taking so many of their cues from Eliot, liked to present literary history as culminating in The Waste Land, a poem that required their expert professional guidance to be understood.

(LRB 21 October 2010)

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