David Herd
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Ezra Pound

Establishing Ezra Pound's enthusiasm is a fraught and complicated business. Fraught because, in all his voluminous writings, 'enthusiasm' is a word Pound rarely uses, and when he does it is without great charge, and typically to derogatory effect. Generally speaking, in fact, 'enthusiasm' features little in high Modernist writing, though Marianne Moore presents an exception. Modernism, as directed by Pound, involved rebranding art as an anti-Romantic, aristocratic activity. Enthusiasm, from this point of view, was a Romantic idea, rehabilitated but also, as Jon Mee argues, regulated in the face of eighteenth-century political suspicions, suspicions recently rearticulated for Modernism by Nietzsche. To complete Pound's analogy, if melancholy was integral to Shakespeare's major work, so distribution should be integral to major work of the Modern age, and The Cantos therefore can be properly understood as a distributive and distributing work.

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Essays on Modern American Literature


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