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Title: Ezra Pound : the development of the poet as critic
Author: Korn, Marianne M.
Awarding Body: Keele University
Current Institution: Keele University
Date of Award: 1970
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My aim, in this thesis, is to investigate the literary works, both prose and poetry, of Ezra Pound in order to describe the nature of the germination and development of his aesthetic theories, and to evaluate their self-consistency and their obvious eclecticism. The work is largely descriptive in nature, for much of what has been written about Pound in the past has been based on an insufficient familiarity with his work as a critic, and this has led some writers to lay excessive weight upon the more superficial qualities of his prose writings. For adequate reasons which are outlined in this paper, many critics have believed Pound's literary· theories to be so chaotic and superficial as to render themselves unworthy of serious attention; and indeed the quantity and extent of his critical writ­ings is so great, that few of his readers have felt themselves able to undertake a full study of them. Yet in view of the reputation and influence of some of Pound's poetry, as well as the assertions of some reputable critics including T.S. Eliot of the value of the criti­cal prose, especially in relation to that poetry but also in respect of modern poetic movements and development, I felt it unwise to dis­miss this part of Pound's work lightly. My study is simply organized. It begins with an outline sum­mary of Pound's development as a student and critic of literature, and with a brief consideration of the fluctuations of his critical reputation and the nature and value of the major works which have dealt with his writings. After this preliminary description, I proceed to study the documents of Pound 1 s development as a critic. In general I deal with them in chronological order because of that empha­sis on development but also attempt to demonstrate the logical links within the works and describe the persistence of some of his earliest critical concepts and their importance to his mature work. The main study begins, therefore, with a consideration of Pound's ideas about the sources of poetic creation. These sources he saw as belonging to two general categories: the personal and sub­jective ones associated with a theory of the creative imagination which he developed from a number of recognized critics in the Romantic or Longinian tradition, and the technical and objective sources associated with a concept of the literary tradition as a fund of techni­cal models for the training of the young writer's skills and percep­tions. Much of Pound's early work, including his first volumes of verse, deals with material of the former variety; this is studied in some detail. As Pound's ideas developed, his critical prose gradually abandoned this area of discussion and turned from the subjective and theoretical to the technical and practical. However the old assump­tions and interests remain to underlie the new concerns. My work then continues with a consideration of Pound's develop­ing ideas regarding the ends of poetry and, indeed, of all litera­ture. This new interest, which appeared in his writings at about the middle of the London decade, involved him in a number of statements about the effects of literature upon the individual both singly and in society; and these early statements and concerns, which can be traced to the influence of Hulme, Ford, Orage, and others in London literary circles, can be seen developing toward their extreme culmi­nation in the social criticism of the 'thirties and 'forties, when Pound's historical and educational theories shaped the form and con­tent of his whole creative output. The major interest of my study however is in Pound*s theore­tical and practical concern with the nature of poetry. Again, this may be seen under two headings: a concern with the diction of verse, and a complementary interest in the problems of aesthetic form. From Pound's earliest Romantic sources came his ideas about the emotional energies of poetic language which involved him as a critical theorist with the difficult and potentially ambiguous criteria of precision and sincerity--that is, of mingled technical and expressive concepts. The ambiguity was resolved to some extent in his search for means of technical precision on the textural level of poetic diction. The major line of development of Pound's aesthetic theories, however, and that which ultimately became the most important to his own poetry, relates to a theory of organic form. This arises first in connection with his early ideas of the analogies between poetry and music as expressive statements and his consequent involvement in the development of free verse forms. This leads in turn to the more general consideration of Pound's formal theories, from his initial, naive, rather specialized studies of conventional verse stanzas, through his development of Imagist and phanopoeic theories, to the general, non-mimetic formal theory which Pound associated with the Vorticist movement, and its culmination in the concept of ideogrammic form which was developed from Imagism as an expansion of earlier theories to deal with more extensive, more complex materials. It will be seen that the ideogrammic concept is of major importance to the evaluation of his poetic achievement, and that among its implications is the potential denial of that organic form which Pound•s theories had come to embrace. At this point it proved necessary to suspend a direct considera­tion of Pound's theories of creative writing in order to look at those statements he made about the varieties and functions of literary criticism. His theories imply the extreme closeness of the aims and means of criticism and those of creative work; they suggest in fact that these aims and means are often identical. If Pound's arguments can be accepted as applying to his own work, and this is certainly his intention, then we must accept a total confusion of critical and creative purpose. Some of the implications of that confusion are explored with special reference to his traditionalism and especially his translations. I then proceed in the final chapter to a consideration of some of the major poetry, to a recognition of the implications of Pound's "logopoeic" theory of diction, which deals with a linguistic usage which is as much critical as creative in function, and to a consideration of the implications of the ideogrammic method as it is applied to the problem of finding an acceptable structure for his later prose and poetry including the Cantos. In the end, the boundaries between poetry and criticism seem to have been destroyed, and all Pound's work must be judged as belong­ing to a single order which is mixed in both methods and aims. The thesis ends with a re-statement of some of the implications of the peculiar nature of this development in the light of its final pro­ducts. My work is then completed by an appendix describing something of the range of Pound's criticism and of the unpublished prose which I have been able to consult in preparing this study; and this is followed by a selected book list of primary and a few secondary published sources which have proved especially valuable in the course of its preparation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN1010 Poetry