What need of many words? : writing and self-representation in Wordsworth's 'The Prelude' and Pound's 'Cantos'.
The thesis investigates parallels between the poetic theories and
practices of William Wordsworth and Ezra Pound with reference
primarily to The Prelude and the Cantos and to the prose writings of
both poets. It argues that their work evolves in response to a common
set of difficulties centred on the problem of the subject's
relationship to language. Particular attention is given to the
division revealed between what current criticism designates the
enunciation and the enounced and for which Jacques Lacan provides the
related terms the Symbolic and the Imaginary.
The thesis explores the different strategies adopted to negotiate a
set of related oppositions revealed by the writing process: between
writing and experience; writing self and written self; thought and
language; unconscious and conscious. Wordsworth's theory of
'spontaneous overflow' is contrasted with Pound's of writing as a
unified act, but both are seen as the means whereby the writing
process itself is rendered central to the concerns of their poetry.
Chapter 1 considers Pound's responses to Wordsworth, and locates the
argument of the thesis within a critical and theoretical context.
Chapter 2 shows how in a strikingly similar manoeuvre both poems
immediately throw open the question of the poet's relationship to
language and to the empirical world. Chapter 3 returns to earlier
versions of each poem to illustrate the formative role such problems
had in their initial development. Chapter 4 considers how in both
cases a poetics articulated as a 'search for sincere self-expression'
develops strategies to overcome the division between self and
language. Chapters 5 and 6 investigate with what success each poem
negotiates a position for the poet in relationship to language.
Chapter 7 draws together and broadens the arguments of the thesis,
suggesting how The Prelude and the Cantos implicate us in different
ideologies of reading.