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Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Jonathan Morse <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 26 Jan 1998 19:35:04 -0500
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Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
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Robert Kibler asks me:
> Are you suggesting that the intelligible reader of 1808 would rightly
>find Pope stilted, and are you then wondering whether or not Pound will be
>found stilted in ten years by our kids, as was Pope then?
Answer: yes, though "rightly" is a relative term. Of course (will I be able
to say "of course" in ten years?) I think Pound will last, just as Pope has
lasted. But if I were to bet on literary history repeating itself, I'd
--oh, say, the phenomenon of Wertherism. Discussing that term, _The Oxford
Companion to Enbglish Literature_ says, "Goethe was later much embarrassed
by this early work and by the assumption that it was autobiographical," and
(if I recall Eckermann correctly) he tried to rationalize by appealing to
good taste. At the beginning of the book, Goethe said, Werther was reading
Homer; by the end, he was reading Ossian. Obviously the boy was going
crazy. But in 1774, the date of _Die Leiden des jungen Werthers_, everybody
in Europe who cared about poetry was reading Ossian.
--or, if you want a lighter example, Mrs. Gaskell's _Cranford_ (1853).
You'll recall that one of the characters in that novel is a set-in-her-ways
old lady who can't see why anybody would waste their time reading Dickens
when it's self-evident that the greatest novel ever written is _Rasselas_.
I can visualize us in that position in a few years--or rather I can
visualize us being thought to be in that position.
Jonathan Morse
Department of English
University of Hawaii at Manoa
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