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The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry

A Critical Edition

Ernest Fenollosa

Publication Year: 2008

First published in 1919 by Ezra Pound, Ernest Fenollosa's essay on the Chinese written language has become one of the most often quoted statements in the history of American poetics. As edited by Pound, it presents a powerful conception of language that continues to shape our poetic and stylistic preferences: the idea that poems consist primarily of images; the idea that the sentence form with active verb mirrors relations of natural force. But previous editions of the essay represent Pound's understanding-it is fair to say, his appropriation-of the text. Fenollosa's manuscripts, in the Beinecke Library of Yale University, allow us to see this essay in a different light, as a document of early, sustained cultural interchange between North Americaand East Asia.Pound's editing of the essay obscured two important features, here restored to view: Fenollosa's encounter with Tendai Buddhism and Buddhist ontology, and his concern with the dimension of sound in Chinese poetry.This book is the definitive critical edition of Fenollosa's important work. After a substantial Introduction, the text as edited by Pound is presented, together with his notes and plates. At the heart of the edition is the first full publication of the essay as Fenollosa wrote it, accompanied by the many diagrams, characters, and notes Fenollosa (and Pound) scrawled on the verso pages. Pound's deletions, insertions, and alterations to Fenollosa's sometimes ornate prose are meticulously captured, enabling readers to follow the quasi-dialogue between Fenollosa and his posthumous editor. Earlier drafts and related talks reveal the developmentof Fenollosa's ideas about culture, poetry, and translation. Copious multilingual annotation is an important feature of the edition.This masterfully edited book will be an essential resource for scholars and poets and a starting point for a renewed discussion of the multiple sources of American modernist poetry.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

Conventions

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pp. xi-xii

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Preface

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pp. xiii-xvi

Ernest Fenollosa’s “Th e Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry,” edited and published by Ezra Pound, is one of the cardinal references in American poetics. Every generation since 1919 has revisited it. But the version of the essay that has circulated for the last ninety years reflects Pound’s understanding of the text. Fenollosa’s manuscripts, preserved with Pound’s editorial markings in the...

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Fenollosa Compounded: A Discrimination

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pp. 1-40

Th e place of Ernest Francisco Fenollosa’s essay “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry” as a major document of twentieth-century American poetry and poetics is secure—if only that is the right place to put it. Donald Davie considered it “perhaps the only English document of our time fit to rank...

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Th e Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry: An Ars Poetica

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pp. 41-60

Th is twentieth century not only turns a new page in the book of the world, but opens another and a startling chapter. Vistas of strange futures unfold for man, of world-embracing cultures half weaned from Europe, of hitherto undreamed responsibilities for nations and races...

Appendix: With Some Notes by A Very Ignorant Man

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pp. 61-74

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Th e Chinese Written Language as a Medium for Poetry

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pp. 75-104

Th is Twentieth Century not only turns a new page in the Book of the World, but opens another and a startling Chapter. Vistas of strange futures unfold for man, of world-embracing cultures half-weaned from Europe, of hitherto undreamed responsibilities for nations and races...

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Synopsis of Lectures on Chinese and Japanese Poetry

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pp. 105-125

As East and West permanently come together, their literature, as well as their arts, will demand a comparative study. It would be Chinese narrowness in us to assume that the only literature or the only laws of literature are ours, which Europe has built up from Homer to Kipling. Already we have to admit Sanskrit language and Buddhist thought to the ranks of literature. But Sanskrit and Pali...

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Chinese and Japanese Poetry. Draft of Lecture I. Vol. II.

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pp. 126-143

Th is process of devitalizing language1 we have already seen to be only partially accomplished in the case of Chinese. Practically all words are verbs, and all retain some transitive meaning, and we saw the little parasites of prepositions, adjectives, intransitives & passives, even negatives, only beginning to grow up. It is we...

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Chinese and Japanese Traits

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pp. 144-152

have repeatedly heard it said, and seen it written, that the Chinese race and civilization, compared with the Japanese, are of a decidedly inferior type. Unprogressive China is supposed to be ugly, prosaic, and degraded; mechanical in temperament, sordid and practical in aim. Th e art of Japan, especially, is thought...

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The Coming Fusion of East and West

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pp. 153-165

The character and meaning of the far, alien world we call the East have merely pricked the curiosity of stray scholars, or spurred the ambition of a few adventurous merchants. Most of us read of British diplomacy at Peking with a vague curiosity, as an echo from another planet rather than as the crisis of modern...

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Chinese Ideals

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pp. 166-173

Considering its enormous size, its great age, and its importance to the world, it seems strange that Western knowledge of China should have been, from earlier days, a matter of extremely slow growth.
To the ancient Greeks and Romans, China was hardly more than a remote...

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[Retrospect on the Fenollosa Papers]

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pp. 174-176

Aft er meeting Mrs Fenollosa1 at Sarojini Naidu’s2 in in or about 19 she read some of my verse and decided that I was “the only person who could deal with her late husband’s note books as he would wished.” I was then totally ignorant of ideogram but published three attempts to follow her wishes, the contents of...

Notes

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pp. 177-208

Works Cited

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pp. 209-216


E-ISBN-13: 9780823246922
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823228683
Print-ISBN-10: 0823228681

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2008