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Everett Lee Lady <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 4 Nov 1999 21:09:19 -1000
text/plain (86 lines)
>I'm not sure I understand the purport of any of Lee Lady's messages. But to
>the extent that facts may be useful:
>1. The term "antisemitism" is usually defined in terms of prejudicial
>ideas, not physical violence. That was certainly the intent of the man who
>coined the term, Wilhelm Marr. However, Marr used the vocabulary of combat
>as the vehicle of his central metaphor. For instance, the title of the
>pamphlet where the term "Antisemitismus" first appears (Bern, 1879) is _Der
>Sieg des Judenthums ueber das Germanenthum_. In the light of subsequent
>events, it's hard not to remember that sometimes "Sieg" means "Sieg."
A lot of people, especially academics, have difficulty in understanding
the purport of many things I write.  I hope that this will continue to
be the case and that I never start writing messages that are amenable
to the sort of neat labeling and pigeonholing that academics are so
fond of.
In this respect, I do think I have a little something in common with
Pound.  The Pound of the CANTOS, at least, if not the Pound of the
literary essays.
As I understand it, this list is intended to serve the needs of two
clienteles, which overlap considerably: namely those whose interest in
Pound is literary and those whose interest is biographical.  My own
interest is, I think, primarily biographical, although over the past
year I've done quite a bit of re-reading of the CANTOS and some of
Pound's other poetry and even more reading of critical works.
But presumably, everything we discuss should somehow relate to Ezra
Pound.  My assumption would be that if someone posts a long book review
to the list which talks about violence against Jews and desecration of
Jewish cemeteries, then there is an implication that this has something
to do with EP.  Since the connection was not explicitly stated, we are
left to make our own inferences.  I wondered whether the poster of the
message was suggesting that Pound was somehow responsible for the acts
of violence referred to.
I think that Pound's anti-semitism is certainly a legitimate topic of
discussion.  As I've stated before, I find it in a way the least
interesting aspect of Pound's biography, since it is the least original
--- the most banal.  On the other hand, it is in a another way of great
importance, because it seems to undermine Pound's claim to present a
moral view, based on Confucius, of major value to the world.  The sort
of bigotry that Pound manifested was and is commonplace.  As much so, I
claim, among academics and liberals as among any other segment of the
population.  I sometimes find such bigotry quite apparent in some of
the messages here criticizing Pound's own anti-semitism; it's just that
it's applied to more socially accepted targets.  However I think we are
justified in demanding that someone such as Pound who claims to present
a moral view for the world hold himself to a higher standard than the
rest of us in this respect.
However I think it's important to remember when we comment on Pound's
anti-semitism that what we are criticizing are his private opinions.  Not
wholly private, certainly, to the extent that he was quite vociferous in
voicing them to everyone he encountered and writing them in private
letters.  But we should make a distinction between opinions expressed
in private conversations and private correspondence and the sort of
anti-semitism which consists of writing anti-Jewish books and articles
and sponsoring anti-semitic newspapers and magazines.
To make the mere statement that Pound was an anti-semite does not convey
the important distinctions.
The Agresti letters have apparently been shocking to many people who
never knew Pound (or, more precisely, a certain very small proportion
of the total contents of those letters has been thus shocking).
However we should remember that these letters were not intended as
published attacks on Jews.  They were private communications.
I have to admit that if people were able to know all the beliefs I
myself hold, I would be judged to be a dreadful person indeed.  However
I do have a little more discretion than Pound as far as talking to
others about my more socially unacceptable beliefs.
Of course the one glaring case where Pound was actively involved in
promoting anti-semitism was his radio broadcasts, and it's hard to take
issue with those who condemn them.
There are also a few anti-semitic references in the CANTOS, but very
few.  There seemed to be something in Pound that realized, when he went
into craftsman mode and his primary concern became producing a work of
art, that although attacks on usury and arms dealers and financiers
might be fine, on the contrary overt anti-semitism would be determental
to the artistic value of the work.