Ezra Pound as Literary Critic

Ezra Pound as Literary Critic

Ezra Pound as Literary Critic

Ezra Pound as Literary Critic

Synopsis

Bringing some of the insights of modern critical theory to bear on a great deal of information about Pound's activities as a literary critic (some of it made available only recently), K.K. Ruthven provides a provocative re-reading of a major modernist writer who dominated the discourse of modernism.

Excerpt

The twentieth century has produced a remarkable number of gifted and innovative literary critics. Indeed it could be argued that some of the finest literary minds of the age have turned to criticism as the medium best adapted to their complex and speculative range of interests. This has sometimes given rise to regret among those who insist on a clear demarcation between ‘creative’ (primary) writing on the one hand, and ‘critical’ (secondary) texts on the other. Yet this distinction is far from self-evident. It is coming under strain at the moment as novelists and poets grow increasingly aware of the conventions that govern their writing and the challenge of consciously exploiting and subverting those conventions. And the critics for their part—some of them at least—are beginning to question their traditional role as humble servants of the literary text with no further claim upon the reader’s interest or attention. Quite simply, there are texts of literary criticism and theory that, for various reasons—stylistic complexity, historical influence, range of intellectual command—cannot be counted a mere appendage to those other ‘primary’ texts.

Of course, there is a logical puzzle here, since (it will be argued) ‘literary criticism’ would never have come into being, and could hardly exist as such, were it not for the body of creative writings that provide its raison d’être. But this is not quite the kind of knock-down argument that it might appear at first glance. For one thing, it conflates some very different orders of priority, assuming that literature always comes first (in the sense that Greek tragedy had to exist before Aristotle could formulate its rules), so that literary texts are for that very reason possessed of superior value. And this argument would seem to find commonsense support in the difficulty of thinking what ‘literary criticism’ could be if it seriously

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