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  • 8 Pound and Eliot
  • Alec Marsh and Elisabeth Däumer

Books about both authors' adventures in the book trade stand out in this year's array of scholarship. Reference works do, too: for Pound an Encyclopedia and for Eliot an annotated Waste Land suggest the extent to which the modernist era is receding into the distant past. That has not made their work less relevant; there is still a lot of explaining to do. Alec Marsh wrote on Pound, Elisabeth Däumer on Eliot.

i Pound

a. The Cantos

Reed Way Dasenbrock has spent a career undercutting the tradition that finds The Cantos analogous to Dante's Commedia. Relevant, yes; analogous, no. "Paradiso ma non troppo: The Place of the Lyric Dante in the Late Cantos of Ezra Pound" (CL 57: 45-60) finds Pound more in the Italian than Singletonian tradition when using Dante. "For Pound, Dante's works don't form an orderly Dantescan rising focused on the sacred as they do in Singleton. . . . Pound is much more interested in the Dante of the non-transcendental love lyrics"—not the poems to Beatrice but to other women, Dante's "most powerful" lyrics. For Pound and Dante "earthly love has a social role"; it is linked with the political (not Fascist, but utopian) impulse. The realm of Venus is in the third heaven, which "is also the realm of enlightened citizenship celebrated in Canto 93 and in Thrones." Pound's paradiso is not transcendent but earthly. Half of this informative article is about traditions of reading Dante. First, the teleological reading endorsed by Eliot and Charles Singleton that sees [End Page 165] a clear arc from the Vita Nova through the Commedia ending in paradise; and second, the other "Italian" tradition of honoring the extensive middle texts, which in their concerns with earthly matters—sexual love and politics—refuse recruitment into a theological Dante. Dasenbrock makes good use of Pound's markings of Dante's complete oeuvre, which he owned in several editions and reread constantly.

John Gery's "Casting No Shadow: Incarceration, Architecture and Love in Canto 90" (Paideuma 34, i: 3-41) uses Foucault's Madness and Civilization to think about canto 90's "shadowless space as part of Pound's response to his incarceration." To do this, Gery tries to answer three questions: Was Pound "happy" at St. Elizabeths as some, like Torrey Fuller, have alleged? What is the relation between the spaces in which he was confined and the Rock-Drill cantos? Does canto 90 express "redemption through remorse" in accordance with Foucault's theories of the insane asylum, or is it only an escape through "unreason" or "pure subjectivity"? This last reopens the nagging question of Pound's sanity. Thickly referenced, Gery quickly disposes of the happiness issue: Pound survived as an artist and a person through a sustained effort of will. Rock-Drill was "an effort to recast his environment at St. Elizabeths," an effort "to preserve and to nourish" his epic while imprisoned in a "cultural context" both alien and hostile to his way of thinking. In 1947, on his emergence after 13 months in the "hellhole" of Howard Hall, the new space where Pound was confined was still small (at most 14 by 8 feet) and the visiting hours short (2 to 4 p.m. until 1956), with no privacy. Within or against this space, Pound assembled a sacred space in his poetry. Gery calls it "a temple of process," eluding both morality and reason. Addressing the third question, whether the poem is an example of "redemption through remorse" or of escape through "unreason," Gery undertakes a close reading by "blocking the canto" into sentences. In the end, however, he refuses the binary that (following Foucault) he has proposed. The poet is constantly observed yet never seen, guiltless yet guilty of treason, of sound and "unsound" mind; in short, he experiences the double bind of the "experience of madness: that 'pure subjectivity' attributed to him 'from which all presence of the truth is removed.' Paradoxically, it is joined with that 'solid truth of being' to which he had devoted his life as an artist."

Alec Marsh's "John Quincy Adams and...


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