Modernism and state power in the pre-war poetry and prose of Ezra Pound, 1911–1914

Hull, David (2015) Modernism and state power in the pre-war poetry and prose of Ezra Pound, 1911–1914. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

Pound scholars have tended to assume that questions of state power, and of the
relationship between the state and the individual, only become central to his work
during the inter-war period. The present thesis, however, argues that these questions are
a major concern in Pound’s writing during the years immediately preceding the First
World War, and that questions of state power significantly colour Pound’s imagist and
vorticist work.

Chapter one reads Pound’s translation of the Anglo-Saxon Seafarer as a
contribution to the radical Edwardian debate about the expansion of the state’s
bureaucratic power and the threat it might pose to individual autonomy. I also consider
the way Pound’s translation links state power to the division of labour. Chapter two reassesses Pound’s instigation of the imagist movement, against the backdrop of his
concurrent fascination with the First Balkan War, an episode all but ignored in previous
Pound scholarship. I argue that Pound interpreted the Balkan states as undertaking on
the battlefield the very same modernizing struggle that he saw himself as embarking
upon in the field of letters. Chapter three argues that as Pound’s pursuit of the ‘new’
intensifies, his identity as an American—as, in his words, ‘a citizen of a free State, a
member of the sovereign people’—takes on a dual significance. Poetically, America’s
perceived national youthfulness and virility become important tropes for novelty and
modernity in his poetry. Politically, though, Pound casts the unfolding national, political
and nascent imperial project of the United States as a metonym for modernity itself,
scoffing at the Italian Futurist’s ‘automobilism’ as essentially provincial, and proposing
instead his own ‘American Risorgimento’.

Methodologically, this thesis strives to combine close readings of Pound’s poetry
and prose, seen within its original publication context (that is, largely in little
magazines), with careful reference to the broader historical context.

Please note: For the purpose of online publication, all copyrighted material
reproduced in the examination copy of this thesis (except that considered ‘fair use’)
has been removed. The redacted material is collected in a supplementary volume.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > American Studies
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0700 Individual authors > PS3500 1900-1960 > PS3531.O82 Pound, Ezra
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2015 10:35
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2015 14:07
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/54508

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