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- Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine


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Bob Tilewick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 17 Oct 1998 08:52:01 -0400
text/plain (164 lines)
In virtually all respects I agree, and I was mistaken as well to say that
the kind of study I critiqued leads nowhere; I'm sure it can be revealing in
many spheres of study.  My concern was that the basic fact could become so
buried that the reality is ignored.  One final note:  your first question to
me was directly on point, so much so that, oddly, I asked myself precisely
the same question about Hitler after I had sent the e-mail, and was
disturbed about the unintended implications, the over-generality of the
Thanks for your thoughtful response,
-----Original Message-----
From:   Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Daniel Pearlman
Sent:   Sunday, October 17, 1999 12:55 AM
To:     [log in to unmask]
Subject:        Re: Talmud, anyone?
Should I then say about _Mein Kampf_, "Well, he was a man, and
let's leave it at that," and go on to appreciate the esthetics
of the book's structure in isolation from all else?  Pound's
_Cantos_ are no _Mein Kampf_, though there have been critics
who've put it in the same category.  If you don't make "arcane"
distinctions regarding degree, kind, source, and intention
behind an author's dark prejudices, particularly as they affect
our reading of a text, then you cannot even begin to evaluate
an author's artistic or philosophical achievement.  I had a
professor of philosophy once who used to love Dostoyevsky but
threw out all his novels once he peeked inside his (antisemitic)
notebooks.  I think this is absurd, as you would too, but where
do you draw the line?
If we people on this list are modeling the real-world reaction
to Ezra Pound, we note how this damn topic inevitably arises
and how we simply cannot escape all the moral and esthetic
implications of the interplay between life and art.
But I agree with your (implied) interest in getting on to some
other topic.  Before I would do so, however:
As to Jonathan Gill, I appreciate your reply to my Talmud question.
Rather interesting that an early review of EP should have been on
the same page with a review of the Talmud.  I don't think EP could
have avoided reading it.  Was there anything in the review that
might have influenced EP?
==Dan Pearlman
At 11:57 PM 10/16/98 -0400, you wrote:
>With great trepidation, I feel compelled to add to this important age-old
>discussion about Pound's anti-Semitism.  I'm not a scholar, but if
>justification is necessary I have adored Pound's poetry for twenty odd
>years, read it and read it again; and read as well the many biographies and
>exegeses on him and his work and his aesthetic/historic/linguistic
>on our century.  None of this reading has changed what remains - his
>and the perhaps unsurpassed beauty and enormity of his accomplishments in
>this century.
>But, again not as a scholar, and without the benefits that scholarly
>exchange can provide, I've read and studied, and read and studied again,
>Old and New Testament, the Tao, I Ching, and other demonstrations of what
>can accomplish.
>But at the end of the day, no careful analysis or archeological digging
>seems necessary or probative.  We're all inconsistent, and so was he, but
>there is enough in his writings for any studious junior high school student
>to know that he expressed anti-Semitic views, gave speeches in support of
>the Fascist regime, and this at a time when 8 million Jews, homosexuals,
>gypsies, and other impurities were gassed or shot in customized vans:
>A gay person, as we know, was barbarically killed in Wyoming this past
>because he was gay.  The fact is that he was murdered.  From what we know,
>he was murdered solely because he was gay.  Maybe, for someone, these
>murderers' psyches are relevant . . . to something.  But what I can't
>understand is the attempt to look for doctrinal, subtle explanations for
>Pound's anti-Semitism.  It was there.  I genuinely understand the
>intellectual drive to find some kind of more profound or historically
>significant explanation for this terrible flaw in his general attitude and
>understanding of Jews.  But it is an injustice, I believe, to Jews, as it
>is, ironically, to Pound, to look underneath the obvious.  We all know what
>he said; we all know what happened; we all can see in our hearts the
>barbarism of hating (or killing) people for what they believe.  What more
>there to understand or analyze?  To paraphrase crudely, take him for what
>was, a man.  In short, there's no subtlety here.  We are each free to draw
>our own conclusions; but why this attempt to proffer arcane explanations
>what he said about Jews?  Hatred is hatred, now and then.  What more needs
>to be known or understood?
>-----Original Message-----
>From:   Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine
>[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Jonathan P. Gill
>Sent:   Friday, October 16, 1998 9:50 PM
>To:     [log in to unmask]
>Subject:        Re: Talmud, anyone?
>Daniel and Everyone:
>I haven't replied on this issue because I wanted to give everyone a chance
>to respond.
>It is true that Pound usually used the Talmud as a shorthand for Jewish
>textuality in general, but I wouldn't underestimate the power of that
>As for Pound's actual contacts with the text, I have no evidence he ever
>read it, and no evidence he ever even read anything reliable about it.
>Nonetheless, it's important to remember that the Talmud was widely
>available around the turn of the century in America for the first time in
>a number of translations and adaptations.  One Philadelphia publishing
>house even brought out Pound's beloved Longfellow and the Talmud in the
>same series.
>As for England, the Talmud was widely available in London bookstores, and
>even considered something fashionable in the more general context of
>oriental literature--not to be ignored, given Pound's growing interest in
>the Chinese and Japanese texts that we were collected in volumes with the
>More to the point, one of the first British reviews of Pound's work (in
>The Bookman, I think) is on the same page as a review of an edition of the
>Zukofsky pointed out Rodkinson's edition of the Talmud to Pound in a
>letter from th 1930s (if memory serves), and (again, if memory serves)
>Pound's response indicated that he had not and would not read it.
>Incidentally, the Ezra of the Bible was considered an "author" of the
>Talmud--Pound knew this.
>So no, no smoking gun.  Still, such an extended engagement, with such
>passion, over so many decades, with a book he never read?  I think that;s
>plenty significant.  It puts me in mind of Pound comment to Hemingway's
>remark about Turgenev that he had "never read the Rooshians."
>This is all off the cuff, so necessarily incomplete and lacking in
>detail--but I hope it's helpful.
>Jonathan Gill~
>Columbia University
>P.S. By the way, I recently came across an article quoting the OED's entry
>on "bullshit."  Guess who is cited as the modern use of "bullshit" as a
>verb!  Hint: check the Pisan Cantos.
Dan Pearlman                    Office: Department of English
102 Blackstone Blvd. #5                 University of Rhode Island
Providence, RI 02906                    Kingston, RI 02881
Tel.: 401 453-3027                      Tel.: 401 874-4659
email: [log in to unmask]            Fax:  401 874-2580