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Title: Ezra Pound's theory of language
Author: Dowthwaite, James
ISNI:       0000 0004 6495 6749
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines Ezra Pound's linguistic theory in relation to literary, philosophical and academic treatments of language in the modernist period. Pound is a central figure in the history of twentieth century literature, and his poetic career marks a sustained engagement with questions of how language can register thought, how it can transmit and communicate images, and, ultimately, how language is able to mediate between artists (or, indeed, language speakers as a whole) and the world. I read Pound's statements on language against the disciplinary history of linguistics, assessing the extent to which his positions are representative of his period, or, conversely, the ways in which they form part of an idiosyncratic worldview. My approach is broadly historical. I begin with Pound's educational background, and move chronologically through his career to the concluding passages of his Cantos. I investigate the extent to which Pound's critical writing engages with new departures taking place in linguistics in the late nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century. The scope of my investigation ranges from the legacy of nineteenth century philology to the approaches taken by William Dwight Whitney, Michel Bréal, and Ferdinand de Saussure, to name but a few, in focusing linguistic scholarship on synchronic study of language as function in the early twentieth century, to Franz Boas's and Edward Sapir's studies in the relationship between language and culture between 1910 and 1939. In situating Pound in relation to the history of linguistics as a discipline, I argue that his work asks some of the period's most apposite questions about language and culture, even if his conclusions differ from the dominant academic positions of the time.
Supervisor: Beasley, Rebecca Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Modernism (Literature) ; Language and languages--Philosophy--History--20th century ; Linguistics ; American literature--20th century--History and criticism