Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo) Free Online Course

August 10, 2014 — 6 Comments



It’s time for ModPo 2014, the free online course in poetry taught by Al Filreis of University of Pennsylvania through the website. The course runs September 6th – Novermber 15th, 2014. Sign up is free.

I have taken the course before, and I’m enrolling again to fill in gaps I missed the first time around. My favorite aspect of the course is its structure: video discussions of poems by a group of University of Pennsylvania students led by professor Filreis. My second favorite thing is the 40,000 participants who sign up to learn more about poetry. The no-cost model is also a bonus. Professor Al Filreis offers this course as a community service outreach. If you are in the Philadelphia area, you are welcome to stop by in person for some of the ModPo live web broadcast discussions. New this year, a meetup in Prague with professor Filreis for European participants, and a weekly meetup at a New York Public Library branch for those nearby. (See the course descriptions and the course forums for meetups that are planned as the course continues.)

From the Coursera website:

In this fast-paced course we will read and encounter and discuss a great range of modern and contemporary U.S. poets working in the “experimental mode,” starting with the 19th-century proto-modernists Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman and ending with 21st-century conceptual poetics. Aside from providing a perhaps handy or helpful survey and chronology of 20th- and 21st-century poetry, this course offers a way of understanding general cultural transitions from modernism to postmodernism. Some people may wish to enroll as much to gain an understanding of the modernism/postmodernism problem through a study of poetry as to gain access to the work of these many poets. Participants do not need to have any prior knowledge of poetry or poetics. The instructor, Al Filreis, rarely lectures, and frequently calls for “the end of the lecture as we know it”; instead, the video-recorded lessons will consist of collaborative close readings led by Filreis, seminar-style — offering models or samples of readers’ interpretations of these knotty but powerful poems, aided by the poetry-minded denizens of the Kelly Writers House on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.


Filming for ModPo, photo from



6 responses to Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo) Free Online Course


    Didn’t realize you were a fellow ModPolian! Great piece here on the course. I’ll watch for you in the forums.


      Yes, doing Week 1 videos now!


        My third time. I’m doing it for the second year as one of the CTAs, but that makes it harder to get to the videos, so I have yet to look. I see you also took HWWP Iowa course and some of the other courses on EDX that I signed up for but did not pursue. I found those forums too hard to figure out and I was taking other courses at the same time. Will you do the Pinsky one starting Sept. 30 on EDx?


        The Iowa course on Whitman was fantastic! Really introduced so many concepts and angles on Leaves of Grass that I had never heard discussed. Great that you are a CTA. I’m doing the extra materials and some of the forums as I have time. I don’t know that I’ll try the Pinsky course because I’m enrolled in some others, and I find one or two courses is the best balance for me, but I’d be interested to hear what you think if you do take it.


    This is my first year and I’m enjoying it immensely. It’s a delight and challenge.

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