Ezra Pound and Neoplatonism

Ezra Pound and Neoplatonism

Ezra Pound and Neoplatonism

Ezra Pound and Neoplatonism

Synopsis

"This book is a detailed study of Ezra Pound's explicit and implicit use of elements of the Neoplatonic tradition in his prose and poetry, and of the way it informed his poetics as well as his political and social-economic views. This book not only discusses the ideas of those Pound considered to be leading figures in the development of Neoplatonism (such as Plotinus, Dionysus the Areopagite, Eriugena, Dante, Gemisthus Plethon, and Thomas Taylor), but, more importantly, it shows how and why Pound adapted and appropriated their notions to develop his interpretation of what he saw as an ongoing Neoplatonic tradition. Through this adaptation of Neoplatonism, Pound's work may be seen as a commentary upon this religio-philosophical tradition as well as a contribution to it." "This study incorporates new material never published before, such as typescript drafts of cantos, notes on Neoplatonic concepts, and Pound's glosses in his notebooks made while he was reading Plotinus's Enneads in the original Greek." "Moreover, this study on Pound and Neoplatonism ties in with the present interest in two aspects of Modernist writing, namely, the link between Modernism and the occult, and the reaction of Modernism to what one may call the epistemological crisis." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

This book is a study of Ezra Pound's explicit and implicit use of elements of the Neoplatonic tradition in his prose and poetry, and of the way it informed his poetics as well as his political and social-economic views. As regards the explicit use, such as the quotations from Plotinus or the specific references to Neoplatonic philosophers, this book is the result of Quellenforschung in the conventional sense. With respect to the implicit adaptation of Neoplatonic elements by Pound, one must bear two aspects in mind.

Firstly, A. D. Moody has rightly pointed out in an overview of Neoplatonism in Pound’s work that it is not a “major subject” in The Cantos, and that the poem does not offer a substantial treatment of the particular ideas of the Neoplatonic philosophers.

What we are explicitly given amounts to no more than a number of points and
references. It is true that these can be seen to make up, when sorted into chrono
logical order, an outline history of the Neoplatonic way of thinking the Cosmos.
And it would appear that this cosmology is being affirmed. Yet it is left quite un
defined, indeed virtually unstated. This frugality of reference can tempt com
mentators to provide what has been withheld, and to insert, for example, Gros
seteste’s De Luce into their reading of The Cantos, on the strength of the citation
from it of the single phrase “per plura diafana.” … I rather think that this is a
distraction from the process of intelligence and not a contribution to it. The Neo
platonism is being practised, not expounded.

Although I agree with Moody that Neoplatonism is not a major subject an sich in The Cantos, it may be said that Pound’s magnum opus is as much informed by Neoplatonic notions as most of the poetry of George Herbert or Gerard Manley Hopkins is permeated by Christian thought, although their poetry does not present a systematized account of the contents of the Bible or of Christian doctrine. Nevertheless their work still presupposes a thorough knowledge of this background, and I therefore disagree with Moody that in the case of Pound, tracking down a quotation to its source and incorporating one’s study and knowledge of that source into the reading of The Cantos distracts “from the process of intelligence.” On the con-

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