Epistemology and intertextual practice in Ezra Pound's "The Cantos"
Nurmi, Jennifer Marie.
Thesis (M.A.)--Georgetown University, 2007.; Includes bibliographical references. This project examines the poetics that support the dense and self-conscious intertextuality of Ezra Pound's The Cantos. Arguing against mainstream interpretations that link the profound difficulty of this textual practice to the poet's renowned snobbery and academic elitism, this thesis proposes that the poem's intertextuality models and foregrounds a specific epistemology and poetics, wherein the reader, continually confronted by a dense texture of implied meanings, must engage in a difficult process of decoding or translating in order to make sense of the verses. Pound's intertextual practice thus initially enacts, on a micro-level, the meta-narrative Pound establishes in the first 70 cantos: man's movement from the darkness of ignorance to the clear light of philosophy. The later cantos, by contrast, reveal Pound's increasing uncertainty as to the reliability or efficacy of the neoplatonic epistemological model he had earlier advanced. This shift in poetics, coinciding with the poet's internment for treason during WWII and his fears that he was on the brink of a mental breakdown, bears important implications for Pound's intertextual gestures in the later cantos as well, suggesting that Pound may not always be in control of the poem's intertextual operations, and that the reader's diligence in chasing allusions and navigating the intertext may not always yield deeper textual meaning. The project concludes by examining the implications of this breach in faith in terms of Pound's questionable political and social beliefs.
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