MARK BYRON. Ezra Pound's Eriugena. London: Bloomsbury, 2014
“Pound’s encyclopaedic imperative […] led him to question intellectual orthodoxies, and to seek out and understand ideas and texts that ran counter to the received narratives of literary and cultural history. One prominent figure in Pound’s counter-tradition is the ninth-century Irish theologian, scholar and poet Johannes Scottus Eriugena. This figure came to prominence in the court of Charles the Bald, two generations after Charles’s grandfather, Charlemagne, had initiated the Carolingian Renaissance by establishing a new centre of learning at Aachen.
Pound saw in Eriugena a strikingly original and courageous thinker, willing to endure ecclesiastical opprobrium in his pursuit of systematic theology, and an intellectually adventurous scholar who sought to advance Greek learning in Western Europe at a time of its near-eclipse. Pound was prescient in his support of Eriugena’s importance in intellectual history, made the more striking by the fact that it is only in recent decades that his contributions to theology, poetics and dialectics have received the scholarly attention they deserve. Eriugena served multiple intertwined functions for Pound: he was an intellectual sphinx, arising out of the desert wastes of early medieval thought as an alternative to scholastic narrow mindedness; his embroilment in various controversies demonstrated that he was prepared to stand for his beliefs counter to a bull-headed ecclesiastical hierarchy, and for which he earned the loyalty and protection of his royal patron; and in the composition of courtly poetry in Greek, Eriugena serves Pound as a model for his own cosmopolitan, polyglot, experimental poetics.” (M. Byron, Preface xv-xvi)
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