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Agnes Sims. PREMONITION AND MEMORY. 1940. Mixed Media. 18" X 15". Broschofsky Galleries, Ketchum, Idaho. C r o s s in g t h e F r o n t i e r : H o l l o w M e n , M o d e r n i s t M ilit ia s , AND M lXED B LO O D M IM ESIS in Louis O w e n s ’s D a r k Riv e r S t u a r t C h r i s t i e It is almost impossible, and it seems quite futile, to make general statements about a country which has no centre, no place by which it can be tested. —Ezra Pound, Patria Mia Pound’s assertion in 1913 that America has no center initially seems to endorse the frontier as the figure best representing the ideology of American exceptionalism. A n America without a center invites the displacement of cultural production to its margins, or beyond them in the context of imperialism, and offers the justifying pretext for AngloEuropean expansionism that Frederick Jackson Turner deftly exploited in his famous essay “closing” the western frontier (37-38). Yet Pound’s foundational decentering act in Patria Mia just as brusquely negates the ideological thrust of Turner’s frontier, by suggesting America has “no place” anywhere to test its national identity, thereby sounding an antiromantic, indeed modernist, note of futility within the otherwise triumphal clamor for Anglo-European, global hegemony.1 From Pound’s perspective, the problem facing America was one of identity. Its resolution lay in addressing the perceived deficit of culture indigenous to the Americas and, as a consequence, in cultivating the metropolitanism sufficient to justify the prosperity of Anglo-European elites. W ith no London, no Paris, no Rome, what engine could drive the nation’s cultural production? In response to this perceived deficit, Pound proposed a vigorous and homegrown movement, a proactive conservancy of humanity, inspired by debates during the RooseveltWilson campaign of 1912: W hatever the American sense of property may be, there has been a watchword used in the present presidential cam­ paign that would scarcely have been used in any country except America or France. “The first duty of a nation is to conserve its human resources.” W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e S p r in g 2 0 0 5 I believe that this sentence contains the future greatness of America. I believe that because of this perception we shall supersede any nation that attempts to conserve first its material resources. (57) Cast in the humanist rhetoric of nationalist politics, Pound’s endorsement of America’s “future greatness” is striking; particularly peculiar, in the age of Carnegie and Rockefeller, is Pound’s privileging of human over material resources. Clearly, the dichotomy between human and material/environmen­ tal resources Pound posits is false. The use of Afro-Caribbean labor to detonate fuses during the U.S.-sponsored construction of the Panama canal, a project nearing completion at the time of Pound’s writing, gives appropriate reminder of the ways in which human materiel was exhausted to coordinate the opening of frontiers nationally and hemispherically in the interests of American corporate capital.2 Similarly, the establishment of the nationwide federal parks system in 1916 des­ ignated lands as off-limits to development in the interest of national culture, but only at the expense of tribal peoples, who already had mil­ lions of acres surveyed (ostensibly on their own behalf) only to be in turn stripped from them.^ The country’s Americanness, which Pound here constitutes with a characteristic mania, emerges only at the mate­ rial cost of subordinated cultures. As the above instances suggest, any humanist rhetoric of Am erican exceptionalism (“we shall supersede any nation”) based on the conservation of human resources remains deeply compromised by the adherence on the part of Anglo-Europeans to an acquired indigenous conservancy (also referred to as “nativism”) about material resources.^ Those who actually protect or expand a given frontier are the soldiers whose lives are expended, contra Pound...


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