Author: Ethan Lewis
Date Of Publication: Aug 2010
This text will “make one see something new [by granting] new eyes to see with,” as Ezra Pound remarked of Imagism. Still he soon dissociated himself from the movement he helped found, to which T. S. Eliot never belonged.
Why, then, study Pound and Eliot as Imagists? As the former phrased it, to offer “language to think in” regarding their shared premium on precision; and to explicate differing reasons for this emphasis. Pound plies accuracy to carve distinctions. By carving, he sought to delineate components of a model culture. Conversely, and paradoxically, severances renderable through apt language enabled Eliot to intuit a divine “amalgamation”—which would displace inevitable confusions among objects, and between subject and object: turmoil dramatized in Eliot’s early work.
A book focusing this opposition requires concrete manifestations. Imagist poetics of the nineteen teens and twenties, as our authors understood it, informs exploring their disparate tendencies; and provides examples of that contrast.
Because they transcended it, Imagism initiates Pound’s and Eliot’s development. Poets wed to Imagism necessarily treat “small things” (Dasenbrock), due to their “poetic of stasis” (Kenner). Imagist techniques, however—presenting interactive “complexes”; creating illusions of spatio-temporal freedom—set the course for the Modernist long poem.
Our subjects extend a tradition, limned by several scholars, principally Sir Frank Kermode. Romantic Imag[ism] “animates ... the best writing between Coleridge and Blake ... and Pound and Eliot.” A parallel critical inheritance this study will humbly continue.
Ethan Lewis has taught Modern and Renaissance Literature at the University of Illinois-Springfield, USA, for sixteen years, since receiving his doctorate from Boston College (where he also taught and earned his baccalaureate). His works include a collaboration with Robert McGregor, Conundrums for the Long Week-End: England, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Lord Peter Wimsey (Kent State, 2000), which garnered the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for finest critical monograph of an author in that genre. Parts of Modernist Image have appeared in Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship, and he has contributed the chapter on Imagism in Ezra Pound: In Context (rev. ed.), edited by Ira Nadel (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). Lewis has also published on Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams, and on Readings in Relation, pairing noted poets with little known artists. He plans to release the entire critical anthology of RR. He is currently working on Questions of Characters: Shakespeare’s and Our Own, a phenomenological inquiry.
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