- Pound and Eliot
It was an exceptional year for T. S. Eliot studies. As recent releases of previously unpublished materials continue to add context and nuance to commonly accepted views of Eliot's life and work, major trends include revisiting his early development as a poet as well as drawing out overlooked connections between his theological, political, and aesthetic interests. The Letters of T. S. Eliot; Volume VI: 1932–1933 and three edited collections, including The New Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot, are among this year's highlights. In the meantime, Ezra Pound scholarship churns on, the year's contributions including one major book, a lively essay collection, and numerous articles, some of them particularly worthy of comment.
Alec Marsh is responsible for the Pound section of this essay, and Annarose Steinke for the Eliot section.
i Ezra Pound
a. Pound and Fascism
Catherine Paul's Fascist Directive: Ezra Pound and Italian Cultural Nationalism (Clemson) studies Pound's prose of the 1930s to "reinterpret his devotion to Italian Fascism." By "revealing the importance of the cultural projects of Mussolini's Fascist regime to Pound's evolving modernism," Paul discovers significant changes in prose style. She demonstrates that the poet's "aesthetic and intellectual shifts" away from his London aestheticism to espousing "propaganda art" derive from his "investment not only in the ideas of Mussolini's [End Page 121] Italy, but also in the wider aims of Italian cultural Nationalism, and in the regime's rhetorical and iconographic devices." In Paul's account, not just Pound's style but his whole method seems to be following the "Fascist directive." As Christopher Bush demonstrates (see below), Pound easily adapted to the geopolitics of the Tripartite Pact. Paul claims Pound became more like an "Italian modernist" than otherwise. Throughout her study she suggests we read him that way.
Benito Mussolini's sponsored cultural projects included exhibitions, the reconstruction of Rome, classical archaeology, and the recovery of forgotten Italian masters such as Antonio Vivaldi. The 1932 Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista, celebrating the "Decennio" of the movement, is promoted in Canto 46, and the 1937 "Mostra Augusta della Romanità," which linked Mussolini's new Italian Empire to Augustus, is touted in Guide to Kulchur. In that book especially the regime's archaeological projects and reconstruction of Rome are reflected in the unexpected turn toward all things Roman, especially the Roman imperium. Until then Pound had belittled Italian imperial dreams, pairing them with bloated British imperialism, as in "Homage to Sextus Propertius." The Guide, in part a work of cultural archaeology, takes its cue from diggings in Rome and thereabouts. Here instead of "luminous details" and a plethora of quoted documents, Pound argues for "not the document but the significance of the document"—very un-Pound, we might think, but amenable to the Fascist direction Pound wished to travel. Paul therefore argues that Guide to Kulchur is Pound's "first prose work to exemplify a truly Fascist ideology."
In the two years "between the writing of Jefferson and/or Mussolini and its publication," Pound "corresponded extensively with most of the intellectual and cultural leaders in Mussolini's regime, including Margherita Sarfatti, Camillo Pelizzi, Galeazzo Ciano, Guiseppe Bottai, Roberto Farinacci and, of course, Mussolini himself." All this activity advanced his aspiration to become a Fascist cultural functionary, part of the Gerarchia. Sarfatti especially plays an important role in Paul's book, seeming to have been instrumental in setting out the "Fascist directive" that Pound happily obeyed. As early as 1921 she had written, "Italian art must return to method, order and discipline. It must achieve a definite, full bodied form, a precise sense of gravity, analogous to and convergent with that of the ancients; independent of foreign fashions and mercantile considerations." Now that is modernism! [End Page 122]
In a series of enlightening chapters Paul describes how Pound's Italian projects followed this directive, which was so consistent with his own, starting with Guido Cavalcanti Rime, which Paul calls "one of Pound's earliest contributions to the Fascist cultural projects in Italy." The Vivaldi Revival pushed by Olga Rudge and Pound is not only in step with Fascist cultural nationalism but...