The Limits of American Literary Ideology in Pound and Emerson

The Limits of American Literary Ideology in Pound and Emerson
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The vote turned against them and with it the live controversy over the awarding to Pound of the Bollingen Prize in was again set on neutral ground. He had also given proof of a veiled religiousness and borrowed extensively from legends and myths from ancient cultures; however, his personal contribution as a poet and thinker was to remain distanced from the debate of abstract philosophical thought and religion as we know it.

What have been called Emerson's 'fateful' Harvard lectures set the ground in America for an autochthonous literature. And they did use local colour, local subjects and American dialects Yet on the whole, as Emerson maintained, writers of the time were in timid tow to English and English literature. Members of what would be called "The Genteel Tradition", amiable, often quite skilful, they lacked the vigour, the pristine American passion that Emerson required.

It was as though they and their language had not yet fully accepted this country, its people and their experiences, but were writing instead blurred accounts of the past, of another world, of some never-never land. Pound and in this he was not alone was also concerned with the apparent clash between the developing modernist values of an industrialised society and the 'genteel' conservatism of the educated American East.

However, his concern for 'truth' in an ideal sense and his contempt for what he suspected was, with the exception of a few names, a poor American literary heritage, made him, paradoxically, align himself with the ranks of those conservative enough to be criticised by 'Home-stayers' like William Carlos Williams. Others, New Republic, Midland, Letters and Leadership, followed before the advent of the s and proved to be effective in the change of attitudes toward literature and the arts. Names like H. Mencken and James Gibbons Huneker attracted constant attention through their warlike reviews of 'genteel' literature or criticism in an act which Katrina E.

Bachinger and F. Allen before her has equalled to "'heaving baseballs at all the precious crockery in the cabinet of art'". Ulrich Weisstein has given ample documentation of the origins of Comparative Literature in the U. William Keggan, Indiana University Press, See E.

American Literature: The Puritan Period

Fuller Torrey's The Roots of Treason, p. I am indebted to Bachinger for the information on American publications included in this section. These, in turn, would become the social and political concerns of both artists and politicians in the aftermath of the crush of This fracas of modernist opinions and the especially boisterous attitude upheld by some of the recognised critics of the period, are not strange to Pound's own method of achieving results on the other side of the Atlantic.

The U. Here is the prospectus for what was to become one of the highest selling magazines in the world: Although daily journalism has been more highly developed in the United States than in any other country of the world -- Although foreigners marvel at the excellence of our periodicals, World's Work, Century, Literary Digest, Outlook, and the rest -- People in America are, for the most part, poorly informed. This is not the fault of the daily newspapers; they print all the news.

It is not the fault of the weekly "reviews"; they adequately develop and comment on the news. To say with the facile cynic that it is the fault of the peoples themselves is to beg the question. Time is a weekly news-magazine, aimed to serve the modern necessity of keeping people informed From virtually every magazine and newspaper of note in the world, Time collects all available information on all subjects of importance and general interest. The essence of all this information is reduced to approximately short articles, none of which are [sic] over words in length Although Time would have no editorial page, it admitted from the beginning that it would have some prejudices.

Among them: 1. A belief that the world is round and an admiration of the stateman's "view of the world. A general distrust of the present tendency toward increasing interference by government. The activities of industrial leaders, and their demands, never let up from the Civil War years onward, reaching a powerful crescendo in the 's and the early 's.

As noted in Chapter Ten, in the last half of the nineteenth century the transformation of the national economy and the American social scene was dramatic and pervasive. In quest of unrestrained growth, efficiency, and greater profits, industrial leaders stimulated a reorganization of the economy that transformed the patterns of manufacturing, merchandizing, distributing, and marketing. Similarly, the directly related growth 3. A prejudice against the rising cost of government. Faith in things which money cannot buy.

A respect for the old, particularly in manners. An interest in the new, particularly in ideas.

COMMODITIES

But this magazine is not founded to promulgate prejudices, liberal or conservative. The magazine is one of news, not argument, and verges on the controversial only where it is necessary to point out what the news means. Pound also starts his 'manifesto' by defining what other movements Futurists have failed to do and then follows up with 'A Few don'ts by an Imagiste'; the structure in both Luce's and Pound's statements is uncannily alike and the publicist spirit pervades them. Though Luce's manner is more decorous, he even opts for the use of capital letters in an otherwise plain format to highlight the importance of some remarks, a well- known Poundian practice.

Originally dated February 1st Mentally I am a Walt Whitman who has learned to wear a collar and a dress shirt Personally I might be very glad to conceal my relationship to my spiritual father and brag about my more congenial ancestry - Dante, Shakespeare, Theocritus, Villon, but the descent is a bit more difficult to establish.

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And, to be frank, Whitman is to my fatherland Patriam quam odi et amo for no uncertain reasons what Dante is to Italy and I at my best can only strive for a Renaissance in America of all the lost or temporarily mislaid beauty, truth, valour, glory of Greece, Italy, England and all the rest of it. The testimony excels both in realism and humour and it is a piece which must be considered when dealing with Pound and his allegiances. That group was composed of people all very "extremist" in their views. In the matter of fine art, as distinct from literature, it was their policy to admit no artist disposed to technical compromise, as they regarded it.

What struck them principally about Pound was that his fire-eating propagandist utterances were not accompanied by any very experimental efforts in his particular medium. His poetry, to the mind of the more fanatical of the group, was a series of pastiches of old french or old italian poetry, and could lay no claim to participate in the new burst of art in progress.

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Its novelty consisted largely in the distance it went back, not forward; in archaism, not in new creation. That was how they regarded Pound's literary contributions. But this certain discrepancy between what Pound said and what he did, was striking enough to impress itself on anybody. It is important to contrast Lewis's statements with those of Pound in a letter to John Quinn of November 24, "W[yndham] L[ewis] much distressed by my preoccupation with the XIIth century; which is I admit very unfortunate from point of view of immediate impact on general public.

In the period between the s and the s the U. As David Ward has shown, the tension between the generations of migrants who had arrived before the Civil War and those who were landing in great numbers in the s could be summarised by the challenge articulated in Josiah Strong's question: "whether this in-sweeping immigration is to foreignize us, or are we to Americanize it? Chace's description of the social environment to which Pound's family belonged: Ezra Pound's family could be described as nouveau poor: refined, with pretensions to gentility, with a memory of rather better times, with little room for social mobility.

The Limits of American Literary Ideology in Pound and Emerson

"The Limits of American Literary Ideology joins with a handful of other recent studies in seeking to change the kinds of questions scholars and critics put to. The Limits of American Literary Ideology in Pound and Emerson Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the central figure of American modernism, Ezra Pound.

Such families contrasted sharply with those alien or immigrant families who were arriving by the thousands on America's Eastern shores during Pound's formative years and were rapidly transfiguring American life. It was this process, of course, that so repelled Pound when he came home to the United States in The process was to become more intense as the "strangers" achieved greater vertical mobility in the nation's economy and displaced people who could trace their American lineage back to the early years of the republic.

Yeats proudly vindicated for himself. Chace's description brings to mind another image, that of the Spanish hidalgo whose well- 28 Silbey, J. Eliot, Stanford University Press, Stanford, , p. From E. However, in making these enticing approximations we run the risk of departing from the facts presented by historians about turn-of-the-century America. David Ward provides us with more information about the nature of the new trends in immigration during that period: The over representation of the foreign born and their children amongst those categories of deviance and delinquency that most threatened the moral order of society was also widely publicized by secular critics who relied upon scientific rather than divine truth Van Wyck Brooks attempted to capture in retrospect these reactions to immigration and urban social problems when he described New York as "the almshouse of the poor half planet, and foreign countries were deliberately dumping their paupers and criminals in the United States, their blind, their crippled, their insane.

Several of the continental nations were making the town a penal colony, and its slums were rapidly approaching the European level. Thus, someone who at one stage was considered of basic importance for the running of some industrial venture, soon becomes a statistical input adding up to the total of unaffordable items. Van Wyck Brooks, however, was a successful writer in the U. His aim was to encourage attention to the wealth of domestic American life; he also figured as one of the representatives of the new modernist advances, having arrived in London a year prior to Pound to then return and 'serve' at home.

Elizabeth's Psychiatric Hospital. Brooks returned years later to London, but his success was achieved solely in the U.

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Regarding racial conflict, his arguments are muddled and irrational. The arguments Pound provides once he has been forced to accept the nature of his bigotry, cannot stand on firm ground.

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Even when more humane considerations arise, and Pound is forced to weigh the consequences that his racist attitude would have on Jewish individuals who are not part and parcel of what, if we believe Pound, amounts to a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, his reasoning is, at best, weak: All that line of talk distracts from the MAIN issue. If the Jews wd.

The Limits of American Literary Ideology in Pound and Emerson

Mentally I am a Walt Whitman who has learned to wear a collar and a dress shirt Aesthetic Ranking Perhaps the moment in which Pound's values were put to the test with fullest force was his imprisonment at the Pisa Disciplinary Training Center. It sent me back to my own proper effort, namely toward using the living tongue. Brooks returned years later to London, but his success was achieved solely in the U. Throughout the Meaning there say prima products and techniques with results. Even the form of the question itself seems somehow quintessentially American: a sign, perhaps, of its essentialist allure and ahistorical dangers, and not only for Americans.

It is hard as hell to do justice. A minority race can NOT fight in the open. Not if it has any sense at all.

The small jew suffers for the sins of the big gombeen man. The fight ought Not to have been fought on the lines of race prejudice. Only way to avoid that is by spread and acceleration of economic light. Pound never doubts his prerogative as a self-appointed judge. The same is true of his treatment of African-Americans as "coons", and his treatment of women, though some critics seem to think such appellatives mean no harm in most of Pound's usages.

For all his concern about justice and his genuine sensitivity towards other 33 From a letter to James Taylor Dunn of 18 March Williams has said that "He Pound always felt superior to anyone about him" and James Laughlin Pound's publisher in New Directions spoke of an ego which "Might more equitably have been distributed among three or four of his contemporaries.

It becomes difficult to explain such an attitude in Pound without falling prey to psychoanalytical arguments about the poet's complexes and deviations or, without yielding to the arguments supporting his despotic advances. The domain of his poetry however, is still available to us and remains open to interpretation. Aesthetic Ranking Perhaps the moment in which Pound's values were put to the test with fullest force was his imprisonment at the Pisa Disciplinary Training Center.

It is therefore fit that we search them for clues as to the nature of Pound's assumed superiority. His awareness of aesthetic quality seems to be the principal point of order at this stage in the debate, something he shared with the artists he knew and who defended him to the end of his life in spite of his ideas and actions. Rising from the ashes of Pound's last weeks at Pisa September , the penultimate Pisan Canto represents an extended metaphor of the poet's slow drift towards the death of his ideal fascist republic.

The decline in personal reputation of which he was aware through articles published in the military gazette Stars and Stripes, gains far reaching proportions. Repeatedly, and tragically, Pound tries to recover the ground lost in his imprisonment, and adduces first the supremacy of hilaritas, a "virtue" Pound maintains which only poet-kings can understand in its right measure: a combination of eclectic humour and intellectual superiority, perhaps best called wit's rich cousine.

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The Limits of American Literary Ideology in Pound and Emerson

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