Ezra Pound and the Symbolist Inheritance
Scott Hamilton


In this revisionary study of Ezra Pound's poetics, Scott Hamilton exposes the extent of the modernist poet's debt to the French romantic and symbolist traditions. Whereas previous critics have focused on a single influence, Hamilton explores a broad spectrum of French poets, including Thophile Gautier, Tristan Corbire, Jules Laforgue, Remy de Gourmont, Henri de Rgnier, Jules Romains, Laurent Tailhade, Paul Verlaine, and Stphane Mallarm. This exploration of Pound's canon demonstrates his logic in borrowing from the French tradition as well as a paradoxical circularity to his poetic development. Hamilton begins by explaining how Pound read Gautier's poetry as an example of Parnassianism and of the "satirical realism" of Flaubert and the modern novelistic tradition. He reveals, however, a crucial blind spot in Pound's poetic vision that facilitated his return to precisely those romantic and proto-symbolist elements in Gautier that were celebrated by Baudelaire and Mallarm, and that Pound, as a modern poet, felt obliged to repress. Arguing that Pound's response to symbolism was not specifically modernist, Hamilton shows how his dual attraction to the lyric and prose traditions, to symbolism and realism, and to the visionary and the historical helps us better to understand our own post-modern sensibility.

First published in 1992.

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