The Ezra Pound Society panels at the conference of the British Association of Modernist Studies in London June 26-28, 2014

I. Print versus Digital scholarship – current projects on Ezra Pound’s Cantos

Chair: Richard Parker

The organisers of the panel aim to provide a comprehensive view of current research on Ezra Pound’s Cantos by presenting the rationale for two critical methodologies on his work. The first one is textual scholarship, aiming to reconstitute authorial intention and establish a new print edition of the Pisan Cantos; the second is made possible by digital humanities: the presentation of Pound’s text together with its critical apparatus in a website enabling collaborative work and continuous update. The aim of the panel is to make clear the features of print and digital approaches to the text by presenting them together in dialogue.


A Critical Edition of Ezra Pound’s Pisan Cantos: Problems and Solutions

Ron Bush – Drue Heinz Professor of American Literature, Oxford University

If for no other reason, the fact that all published editions of the Pisan Cantos have been unable to execute Ezra Pound’s instructions for the insertion of Greek and have omitted over fifty sets of Chinese characters that he directed his publishers to include would be sufficient cause to re-edit the poem. But the case for a new edition is stronger than that. Owing to the extraordinary conditions of its composition and transmission, approximately five hundred corruptions of Pound’s typescript text survived into the poem’s first English and American publications. Pound’s typescript of the Pisan Cantos was the product of the harsh conditions of his imprisonment (his wavering memory following a mental breakdown, his lack of books, and the many errors he inevitably produced typing at odd hours on unfamiliar typewriters). Just as seriously, many of Pound’s emended carbons never reached his editors at New Directions and he was forced during his continued incarceration in the U.S. to delegate responsibility for many kinds of correction he would normally have made himself. Although there can never be a definitively “corrected edition” of the Pisan Cantos this does not mean that an edition cannot be established that eliminates the corruptions that later crept into the text. A critical edition based on the typescripts Pound produced at Pisa and including a complete historical apparatus is currently in preparation with Oxford University Press and will not only achieve these aims but also make it possible to understand the deficiencies of the poem’s current texts.


The Cantos in Hypertext: New Possibilities for Scholarship

Roxana Preda – University of Edinburgh

Since their publication in in 1980 and 1986, the two volumes of Carroll Terrell’s Companion to The Cantos have been the constant textbook and source of reference for Pound scholars. The annotations it contains have suffered from the promise of permanence that the print medium provides: once published, the glosses could have been developed further, in subsequent editions; yet these editions did not materialize. The annotation of a companion is a synthesis of what we know about a text at a given moment – as that moment recedes into the past, it becomes imperative to adjust the forms of mediation of the poem to new scholarship accumulating on it. Annotation is such a form, which is strictly bound to practice and the local case. As a result, it has routinely been accused of many shortcomings: perverting the reader response, providing unnecessary information, aggressing and misinterpreting the writer, spoiling art.

Can hypertext be the answer to the problems above? Hypertext indeed corrects defects of annotation that are not so much intrinsic to the activity itself but are rather conditioned by the print medium and the idea of the book. By letting the defects of print be corrected by the digital, and the potentially limitless abundance of hypertext be corrected by print culture assumptions, we might arrive at more satisfactory and accurate working models on how to mediate texts. The paper presents the architecture of the digital The Cantos Project as an answer and solution to the above cautionary critique.


II. Ezra Pound: Questions of Reception and Influence

Chair: Roxana Preda

The panel aims to uncover and discuss issues of Pound’s reception in Italy and Britain. It provides the more general view from the historical perspective (Pound’s concrete situation in the Italian literary landscape of the 1930s) delineating the impact he had on the Italian world of letters during the Fascist period. Using the historical situation as a point of departure, the next two papers analyze concrete cases of poets influenced by Pound: Basil Bunting and Keston Sutherland.


Pound in Italy and Italy in Pound in the 1930s.

Giuliana Bendelli, Universita cattolica di Sacro Curore, Milan

The paper focuses on the presence of Pound in Italy in the 1930s when, some years after his move to Rapallo, he fosters an international cultural debate through his "critical" writings in important literary journals, such as "L'Indice" and "Il Mare".

Though he was widely known as ‘il poeta americano’ Pound was arguably better known as literary critic, editor of Cavalcanti, economist, concert impresario and man of action who had obtained an audience with Mussolini than as a poet. The paper aims to investigate how contemporary Italian poets like Marinetti, Montale and Ungaretti understood and reacted to Pound’s poetry in the context of existing publications and translations. This is an archaeology of the beginnings of the Italian reception of Pound’s poetic work within the context of Fascism, before the major translation work by Mary de Rachewiltz was started.


Bunting’s Chomei at Toyama: Redaction and Prefiguration

Julian Stannard, University of Winchester

Bunting’s second stint in Rapallo (1929-33) was one of his most fruitful periods. Proximity to Pound and the ‘Ezuversity’ was of vital importance, yet there were on Bunting’s part two serendipitous discoveries which were also of great significance. The English poet was familiar with Genoa, the great sea port, north of Rapallo and here on its quayside, amongst the bookstalls  and second-hand bookshops,  Bunting discovered Marcello Muccioli’s Italian translation of Kamo-no- Chomei’s Hōjōki. This gave rise to Bunting’s  ‘Japanese’ poem Chomei at Toyama, which is a poetic redaction of early medieval Japanese prose. Chomei is an exquisite piece of work, which sets itself apart from the cycle of early sonatas – Villon, Attis, The Well of Lycopolis. The vitriol and self-laceration, which often characterize these sonata pieces, give way to a worldly resignation in the Confucian-Buddhist tradition.  Such ‘disengagement’ could be said to prefigure similar moments of withdrawal in Briggflatts. Chomei’s Buddhism also resonates with Bunting’s Quaker/pantheistic beliefs.

Eliot said of Pound’s Cathay that the American had ‘invented Chinese poetry for our time.’  This paper will make a number of observations regarding the editorial /poetic methodology of Bunting’s ‘Japanese’ poem and enquire as to whether Chomei acts as bridge of sorts between Pound’s  Cathay and the later work of poets such as Gary Snyder and Robert Hass as well as British poets such as Kenneth White, whose writing feeds into what has been described as ‘The Cold Mountain School’.


Two Poundian Essay Collections

Richard Parker

In this paper I will provide an overview, explanation and brief theorisation of a book that I have edited and which will have appeared through Shearsman Press shortly before the Modernism Now conference in June. Entitled News from Afar: Ezra Pound and Some Contemporary British Poetries, the volume is made up of essays and poems by various contemporary British writers and seeks to address Pound’s continuing relevance to formally innovative British poetry. I will briefly, summarising some of the critical positions prominently held in the volume, make the argument that, though these poets disagree with Pound politically and aesthetically, the American nonetheless provides a crucial model for many of today’s young and politically-motivated writers.

I will then, in more detail, address the ambivalent importance of Pound to the poetry of Keston Sutherland. Sutherland’s poem-collage ‘In Memory of Your Occult Convolutions’ (which is published in News from Afar)marks one of this generation’s most striking engagements with Pound, and I will look at this work’s status as both homage to and critique of Poundian methods and criticism, suggesting that Sutherland’s carefully argued position is emblematic of that of his peers.



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