Illustrating Crane's adherence to Victorian verse norms usefully transgresses hoary disciplinary lines by demonstrating the need to think about modern U.S. poetry in a transatlantic context. Such a gesture is, however, in itself unlikely to win the poet new admirers, whether in or out of the academy. Whatever its national origins or affiliations, Crane's anomalous writing style remains vulnerable to accusations of being meretricious, self-indulgent, or even reactionary. To reply to such charges means finding a way to attribute significance to Crane's démodé Swinburnian leanings, a task which, in essence, requires that one supply a frame that could situate this story within broader narratives or debates.
Crane's decision to opt out of the Pound Era provides a useful starting point. Crane's dissent appears gauche, inexplicable, or conservative only if one buys into the Poundian narrative of poetic progress from Victorian “sissified fussiness” to Imagist clarity to Vorticist kinetics.1 Since the early 1990s there has been a growing consensus that the conventional, oft-repeated narratives of modernist formal experimentation and breakthrough—the sort of narrative enshrined in such classics as Pound's How to Read (1931), Hugh Kenner's The Pound Era (1971), and Christopher Beach's ABC of Influence (1992)—have frequently concealed as much or more than they reveal. Scholarly attention has shifted toward the investigation of what Andreas Huyssen, following Dilip Gaonkar, calls “alternative modernities,” that is, “trajectories,” “relations,” and “crosscurrents” of thought and development that have always existed alongside canonical modernism but that have, up to now, rarely received extended scrutiny from metropolitan academics (367). In opposing his poetics to Pound's, Crane could have been asserting himself as