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The law of the Modernist letter : anti-semitism and the technology of respresentation in the poetry of Ezra Pound / Jonathan Peter Gill.

Publication | Library Call Number: PS3531.O82 Z6347 1999

Ezra Pound's conception of literary form derives its motivation from the threats that Jews supposedly present to the production and circulation of value and meaning in America and to the nation's cultural and social order. Pound's anti-semitism is about representation itself, and is therefore intimately related to his ideas about literature, shaping the Cantos and exemplifying the broader cultural roots underlying the complex relationship between ethics and literature in 20th-century America. Pound published his first poem about William Jennings Bryan's Populist challenge to the gold standard in the Presidential election of 1896. Bryan remains a reference point for Pound. An examination of a variety of textual materials, in particular Bryan's “Cross of Gold” speech, demonstrates how Bryan's attempt to transfer the nation's representing medium from the natural to the social realm prefigures and influences the path from the naturally “hard” values of Imagism to the socially “soft” values of the Cantos. Pound's dissatisfaction with these terms, especially as they recall his father's work at the Philadelphia Mint leads him to explore the status of paper money, and urges him in the 1920s to suppress the original, pre-World War I opening of the Cantos. At this point, Pound's grandfather, Thaddeus, a politician and businessman who printed his own money becomes a crucial part of Pound's literary genealogy. In the 1930s and 1940s, these concerns project themselves onto Pound's interest in radio, a new technology of representation, invented by Pound's cousin, Mahlon Loomis, that inspires a “radiogrammatic method.” However, radio inspires in Pound an explosive anti-Jewish rhetoric. Pound's final years, with their continuing fear of “Jewish” textuality and the Talmud in particular, are investigated in the context of the hostile reception given the Talmud in translation in America during Pounds formative years. Pound's last writings are less a pastoral recantation of anti-semitism than an attempt to shore up a poetics of “anti-semetism” by coming to terms with his ultimate literary ancestor, the reputed “author” of the Talmud, the Biblical Ezra.

Gill, Jonathan, 1964-
Record last modified: 2018-05-22 11:47:00
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