Modern American literature began with a statement of enthusiasm from Emerson's writing in Nature. 'Enthusiasm', in Emerson, is a knowing word. Sometimes its use is as description, invariably approving, of a historic form of religious experience. Socrates' meaning of enthusiasm, and the image of the enthusiast it throws up, is crucial to this book. The book is a portrait of the writer as an enthusiast, where the portrait, as will become clear, carries more than a hint of polemic. It is about the transmission of literature, showing various writers taking responsibility for that transmission, whether within in their writing or in their cultural activism. Henry David Thoreau's Walden is an enthusiastic book. It is where enthusiasm works both in Immanuel Kant's sense of the unbridled self, and in William Penn's sense of the 'nearer' testament, and in Thoreau's own sense of supernatural serenity. Establishing Ezra Pound's enthusiasm is a fraught and complicated business. Marianne Moore composed poems patiently, sometimes over several years. She is a poet of things, as isolated things - jewels, curios, familiar and exotic animals, common and rare species of plant - are often the ostensible subjects of her poems. Homage to Frank O'Hara is a necessary book, because the sum of his aesthetic was to be found not just in his writing, but also in his actions to which only friends and contemporaries could testify. An enthusiastic reading of James Schuyler brings to the fore pleasure, the sheer pleasure that can come of combining, or mouthing, or transcribing.
This book is about Ford Madox Ford, a hero of the modernist literary revolution. Ford is a fascinating and fundamental figure of the time; not only because, as a friend and critic of Ezra Pound and Joseph Conrad, editor of the English Review and author of The Good Soldier, he shaped the development of literary modernism. But, as the grandson of Ford Madox Brown and son of a German music critic, he also manifested formative links with mainland European culture and the visual arts. In Ford there is the chance to explore continuity in artistic life at the turn of the last century, as well as the more commonly identified pattern of crisis in the time. The argument throughout the book is that modernism possesses more than one face. Setting Ford in his cultural and historical context, the opening chapter debates the concept of fragmentation in modernism; later chapters discuss the notion of the personal narrative, and war writing. Ford's literary technique is studied comparatively and plot summaries of his major books (The Good Soldier and Parade's End) are provided, as is a brief biography.
Here is a portrait of an enthusiast:
He has always been, first and foremost, a teacher and a campaigner. He
has always been impelled, not merely to find out for himself how poetry
should be written, but to pass on the benefit of his discoveries to others;
not simply to make these benefits available; but to insist upon their being
received. He would cajole, and almost coerce, other men into writing
well: so that he often presents the appearance of a man trying to convey
to a very deaf person the fact that the house is on fire. Every
, literary culture requires enthusiasm. Which makes it all the more
important that the writer as enthusiast should be recognized, that their terms
should be understood, that the energies by which they circulate value should
be appreciated and made known. And it makes it crucial that institutions
professing a concern for literary culture, instead of operating procedures that
militate daily against its dissemination, should permit the enthusiasms by
which such culture is passed on.
EzraPound, Selected Letters: 1901-41, ed. D. D. Paige, London, Faber and
of the English
Review, author of The Good Soldier and transformer of EzraPound’s
verse, he performed a vital part. Indeed, Max Saunders writes in his
magisterial biography of Ford that ‘the period of literary modernism is
“the Ford era” as much as it is Pound’s, or T. S. Eliot’s, or Joyce’s’; Ford
was ‘at the centre of the three most innovative groups of writers this
century’.4 In addition, the language of decline, collapse and fragmentation is commonly applied by historical analysts to events and
developments of the early twentieth century. These were the years
these characters either Ford’s experience of looking at himself
‘from outside’ as a result of his grandfather’s portrait of him as William
Tell.3 Indeed, this chapter could be considered as the culmination of
the attention this book has given to the visual aspects of Ford’s writing
(and the modernist image of the kaleidoscope makes another appearance in The Young Lovell4). EzraPound wrote in his obituary of Ford
that he ‘was almost an halluciné . . ., he saw quite distinctly the Venus
immortal crossing the tram tracks’; Ford certainly thought he was,
writing in 1915
by EzraPound as ‘the justification of the movement, of our modern experiment, since 1900’.14 (Ford had made other
contributions, including ‘On Heaven’, also praised in extravagant
terms by Pound.) The mythic, historical, contemporary, seen and
heard fragments that Eliot assembled in The Waste Land owe much to
Conrad, from whose work Eliot nearly took the epigraph for the
poem.15 These fragments are instructive when reading Ford. They form
‘These fragments I have shored against my ruins’
part of that doctrine Ford both ranges against, and uses to come to
Beowulf translations by Seamus Heaney and Thomas Meyer
As Chris Jones argues, the recovery of Old English forms, language, and rhythms was a major impetus for the ‘poetic energy’ of the modernist movement at the turn of the century.
Led by EzraPound, ‘these poets contributed to a modernist aesthetic that is in some ways more sympathetically attuned to so-called primitive art, or to the verse of the early Middle Ages (which too is far from primitive), than to that of the Romantic or Victorian eras’.
, she was deeply influenced by the poet Hilda Doolittle, whose first publication launched the imagist movement and gave her the abbreviated name H.D. by which she would become known. H.D. had given EzraPound one of her poems to read, upon which he wrote ‘H. D. Imagiste’ before sending it straight to Harriet Monroe's then new and avant-garde magazine Poetry .
H.D.'s book Sea
Garden captured the imagination of the young Bryher, well before she knew the identity of its author
large concepts. It is the big words that have ‘gone’.
The ‘big words’
This expression of a wartime linguistic fragmentation is one for which
I can find no etymological evidence (I have checked the Oxford English
Dictionary and etymological dictionaries). And yet, it is one that is
ubiquitous in certain kinds of writing of the First World War. EzraPound wrote in 1915, in structuralist vein, that ‘when words cease
to cling close to things, kingdoms fall, empires wane and diminish’
In sight of war
(seemingly transposing cause and effect).3 Symbolising his