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The Gorilla and the Bird’: Modernism and the Pathology of Language

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Abstract

Pound’s modernist project for a poetry that would once again be read, without prejudice to its privileged capacities, involved a quest for techniques which would synthesise the special subjectivity of poetry with the social objectivity of ‘prose’. In other words, on the one hand we have the ‘Old World magic’ of the poetic vision, which we have observed in terms of ‘delightful psychic experience’, ‘the radiant world’, the world of myth and of the primitive qualities of the Chinese character, relating to chosen historical moments of Classical, Romance and Oriental culture. On the other hand, we have a modern world whose dominant ‘prose’ discourse is that of science: modern scientific energies, psychology, and the model of the mathematician-psychologist contained in empirio-criticism. Mediating between these two worlds we have Pound’s poetics and poetic practice, which we have looked at in terms of the notion of poetic energy, of the Image and the Vortex, and of the particularities of his theory of energetic grammar and metaphor.

Keywords

Oedipus Complex Conditional Knowledge Pleasure Principle Patron Saint Social Conditionality 
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Notes

  1. 10.
    Cf. George Dekker’s distinction of ‘Two Aspects of Myth in The Cantos’: ‘myth as [im]moral fable’ and ‘myth as the record of delightful psychic experience’, in Sailing After Knowledge: The Cantos of Ezra Pound (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963) p. 62.Google Scholar
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    Herbert N. Schneidau, ‘Wisdom Past Metaphor: Another View of Pound, Fenollosa, and Objective Verse’, Paideuma, 5.1 (Spring-Summer 1976) 26.Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    Louis Zukofsky’s comment was made at the Ezra Pound Symposium held at the University of Maine at Orono in June 1975, and reported in Paideuma, 4.3 (Winter 1975).Google Scholar
  4. 17.
    Jean Starobinski, ‘Freud, Breton, Myers’, La Relation critique (Paris: Gallimard, 1972) p. 324.Google Scholar
  5. 19.
    See Martin A. Kayman, ‘A Context for Hart’s “Complex”’, Paideuma, 12.2–3 (Fall-Winter 1983) 235.Google Scholar
  6. L. S. Hearnshaw, A Short History of British Psychology: 1840–1940 (London: Methuen, 1964) p. 167. The sources that Hart himself gives, in the Introduction to The Psychology of Insanity, are precisely Jung, Pierre Janet, Karl Pearson and Krafft-Ebing. Freud is not mentioned.Google Scholar
  7. 22.
    See Alan Gauld’s account of the work of the Society in The Founders of Psychical Research (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968).Google Scholar
  8. See also F. W. H. Myers’s Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death (London: Longman, Green, 1901; rev. and abridged, 1927).Google Scholar
  9. 25.
    Freud, letter to Jung, 17 Feb 1911, The Freud/Jung Letters, ed. William McGuire, tr. Ralph Manheim and R. F. C. Hull (Princeton, NJ: Bollingen Press, 1974) p. 396. The only ‘psychoanalysts’ working in England at this time were Hart, M. D. Eder (a friend of A. R. Orage and D. H. Lawrence, and hence a sometime member of the New Age circle) and Ernest Jones, Freud’s biographer. Jones was, however, working in Canada between 1908 and 1913. Eder in fact read a paper on Freud to the British Medical Association in 1911. In striking contrast to the receptivity shown by the Society for Psychical Research on the occasion of Myers’s presentation in 1893, the members of the Association present listened politely until the end and then all silently walked out.Google Scholar
  10. 26.
    Joseph Collins, quoted in Nathan G. Hale, Jr, Freud and the Americans (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971) p. 275.Google Scholar
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    Sigmund Freud, Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (1905), tr. James Strachey (Harmondsworth: Penguin Freud Library, 1976) p. 218.Google Scholar
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    Wyndham Lewis, ‘The Song of the Militant Romance’, One Way Song (London: Faber & Faber, 1933) p. 30.Google Scholar
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    Freud, ‘Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality’ (1905), Complete Psychological Works, standard edn, VII (London: Hogarth Press, 1953) p. 135.Google Scholar
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    Carl Jung, The Psychology of the Unconscious (1912), tr. Beatrice M. Hinkle (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1946) pp. 388 and 506.Google Scholar
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    Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884; New York: Harper, 1931) p. 16.Google Scholar
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    Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo (1912) tr. James Strachey (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1960) p. 90.Google Scholar
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    Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia, tr. E. F. M. Jephcott (London: New Left Books, 1974) p. 222.Google Scholar
  21. 51.
    Pierre Macherey, Pour une théorie de la production littéraire (Paris: Maspero, 1974) pp. 80–1.Google Scholar
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    Sigmund Freud, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901; Harmondsworth: Penguin Freud Library, 1975) p. 258.Google Scholar
  23. 55.
    Ibid., p. 238. Jean-Pierre Faye notes a similar process of literalisation in two of the key discursive operations of fascism in Italy. Faye notes a transition in Mussolini’s use of ‘totalitario’, a transition from its originally conditional utterance (‘they say that we are …’, 22 June 1925) to ‘l’énoncé sans condition’ (3 Jan 1925), by which time the party had fulfilled what had before been effectively an irony. See Jean-Pierre Faye, La Critique du langage et son économie, p. 81; and also his Théorie du récit (Paris: Herman, 1972), pp. 57ff.Google Scholar
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    e. e. cummings, Complete Poems 1913–1962 (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1980) p. 223.Google Scholar
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    P. G. Wodehouse, letter to W. Townend, 2 Oct 1924, in Wodehouse on Wodehouse (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981) p. 260.Google Scholar
  26. 61.
    Charles Ives, ‘Postface to 114 Songs’ (1922).Google Scholar
  27. ‘Essays Before a Sonata’ and Other Writings, ed. Howard Boatwright (London: Calder & Boyars, 1969) pp. 128–30.Google Scholar
  28. 62.
    The distinction between the production and consumption of art and literature relates to the sometimes problematic distinction between ‘popular culture’ and ‘mass culture’: the one produced by communities usually for their own consumption; the other produced by an industry for consumption by a class distanced and dislocated from the act of its production. To give a general idea of the sort of areas that I am indicating, we might consider the move towards the teaching of writing in schools and some universities as a supplement to an otherwise largely consumption-oriented reading-course. This is an interesting field of experimentation, especially in the perspective of educationalists such as James Britton, who describes literature as ‘a written form of language in the role of spectator and so related to the spoken form, gossip about events’ — Prospect and Retrospect: Selected Essays of James Britton, ed. Gordon Pradl (London: Heinemann, 1982) p. 49 — although one perceives the ambiguities of the situation when confronted with the boom in the publication and sale of students’ or children’s writing — or with the expectation of students on ‘creative writing’ courses that the production of good work itself merits publication. On the other hand, the emergence of community publishing co-operatives (such as Centerprise and QueenSpark in London and Brighton), and of feminist and ethnic groups, has also given many people access to their own ‘showing-forth’. Of particular interest, then, is the development of a literature of working-class autobiographies and women’s writing, most often under the auspices of this type of co-operative. For an account of the experience of such groups.Google Scholar
  29. The Republic of Letters: Working Class Writing and Local Publishing, ed. Dave Morley and Ken Worpole (London: Comedia Publishing Group, 1982). One does not wish to be overnaïve about this, nor does one underestimate the capacity for recuperation of the culture industry and educational system, nor does one view the word-processor and personal video necessarily as revolutionary elements. None the less, inasmuch as the condition of modern culture is that its ‘massification’ passes through its integration into a particular formGoogle Scholar

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© Martin A. Kayman 1986

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