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  • Pound and Eliot
  • Alec Marsh and Frances Dickey

A major shift in T. S. Eliot scholarship continues with the publication of his letters from 1926 and 1927, collected in the third volume of a longdelayed series that restarted in 2009 and promises to carry on at the rate of a book a year. This infusion of new primary material brings Eliot into the public eye (from TLS to The Diane Rehm Show) and widens a scholarly conversation that was constrained for more than 60 years by his sense of privacy and the loyalty of Valerie Eliot, who died in 2012. The publication of the letters means a fresh understanding of Eliot as poet, critic, and editor; religious convert and political activist; friend, husband, son, and brother. The sum of other Eliot work this year is substantial, including three monographs, multiple book chapters and journal articles, and a special section on Eliot in the journal Religion and Literature. As for Ezra Pound, two new books have appeared, one on the Adams Cantos, another on the early poetry. However, storm clouds are gathering for Pound studies as new and pending work begins to emerge from the archives—including those of a variety of intelligence agencies—about the least-known years of Pound’s life, those in Italy during the war.

Alec Marsh is responsible for the Pound section of this essay, and Frances Dickey for the Eliot section. [End Page 133]

i Ezra Pound

a. Politics and Biography

In a 2009 talk at Hamilton College included in the collection Ezra Pound and Education (see AmLS 2011, pp. 152–53) Peter Nicholls proposed three phases of Pound’s reception: the “hippy phase” when Pound was seen as a countercultural guru and prophet; a second phase in which an abundance of archival material troubled our understanding of Pound and his poem, as his adherence to fascism during the 1930s and 1940s became known and any recantation of this politics less plausible; and a third phase in which the “open form” of The Cantos rescued the poem from Pound’s “closed” politics. Although arguably successive, each phase persists, often enough in the same reader. Well, there is a fourth phase coming. If we can liken Nicholls’s three phases to spring, summer, and autumn, winter is a-comin’ in, and Pound scholars may well sing “Goddam” and clutch at their overcoats. The fourth phase will consider closely the question of the depth of Pound’s involvement with Italian fascism. Matthew Feldman, a scholar of fascism, not a Poundian, begins to answer that question in his devastating “The ‘Pound Case’ in Historical Perspective: An Archival Overview” (JML 35, ii: 83–95), which will be followed by a 2013 book, Ezra Pound’s Fascist Propaganda, 1935–1945. How deeply involved was Pound? Up to his neck. Feldman’s “archival overview” takes an “empirical approach” by studying “a clutch of recently released documents,” including Pound’s 1,500-page FBI file (which has hitherto generated a single article, by Karen Leick; see AmLS 2008, p. 153) and other files that might have been assimilated by Pound scholarship years ago, such as that of Archibald MacLeish (just now beginning to be exploited) and extensive U.S. Department of Justice holdings. “Pound may have been a strange bird to Italian Fascists given his background, poetry and economics,” Feldman argues, “but he was far more important to the regime’s propaganda—and to evolving American policy on treason—than has been posited to date.” Feldman presents Pound as an indefatigable propagandist for the regime, who far from making his own propaganda worked closely with the Ministry of Popular Culture in formulating Italian propaganda policy. The FBI believed that Pound met with a government committee “every morning” to discuss initiatives and opportunities and believed that he was well paid to boot. Daily briefings seem unlikely if Pound was in Rapallo three weeks out of four, but he may have met daily during his week in Rome. We have known [End Page 134] that Pound continued his work for the Repubblica Sociale Italiana and Nazi-controlled Radio Milan until the end of April 1945, but as Feldman shows, Pound’s FBI file includes...


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