Wednesday, September 9, 2009

As if it couldn't get Better Than Ezra Pound

I always thought Ezra Pound was the most annoying author I had ever come across in my literary studies. Something about the way Pound set out to explain what "good literature" is and how he writes "good literature," and his blatant elitism just never set well with me.

I stand corrected. T. E. Hulme is my newest "most annoying author ever." Pound is in close second.

"Romanticism and Classicism" definitely illustrates where Pound may have gotten many of his ideas for "A Retrospect." What struck me most about Hulme's essay is the amount of politics interwoven throughout it. I know that artists, poets, and critics alike certainly have political opinions, and certainly make no reservations about expressing them. However, Hulme's essay really seems focused on connecting the political association with the authority of a particular genre, and as he says, he "makes no apology for dragging" it in (Hulme 94). Hulme's methods for arguing against Romanticism are very dogmatic and not the least tactful. Hulme's description of Romanticism is very problematic and it almost seems laughable when his arguments for the traditional or classical view are legitimate because, hey, the Church has been classical with their "sane...dogma of original sin" (Hulme 95).

The place of the literary critic with both Hulme and Pound is problematic as well. For Hulme, it seems that the literary critic, or intellect concerned with the work of art, is simply not capable of representing what Coleridge called the "vital." I take this to mean that the critic or intellect cannot put into words the "thing" or image. Pound is all over the place where the critic is concerned. By setting up what criticism is not (and then of course beginning his criticism with the very thing he negates), Pound mentions the importance of the older generation on the poet. we are to assume he obviously doen't mean a romantic! as well as, "pay no attention to the criticism of men who have never themselves written a notable work" (Pound 60). I would be very interested to know who exactly Pound found "notable" authors!

Hulme and Pound bring emotion up often. Both Hulme and Pound clearly believe emotion is important to poet and his/her poetry, though they obviously defer with what emotion is or should be where the Romantics are concerned (at least they want to). Pound seems to think most emotion is a "sham" and the emotion that comes from satire is far preferable,though he ends his essay with the section titled "Only emotion endures" (67). I realize that Modernism is, or was intended to be, a complete and radical break from the Romantics, but so much of what Hulme and Pound seem to be diverging from, is present even in their own criticisms. It seems Pound especially, is splitting hairs with what Wordsworth or Coleridge sought from poetry. Poetry as a "spontaneous overflow of emotion recollected in tranquility" may not be what Pound has in mind (certainly not the spontaneous judging from "A Retrospect"!), but Pound and Hulme definitely agree that Poetry is that of emotion.

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