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Ezra Pound and Confucianism

Ezra Pound and Confucianism: Remaking Humanism in the Face of Modernity

Feng Lan
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 255
  • Book Info
    Ezra Pound and Confucianism
    Book Description:

    While Pound scholars are familiar with the American poet's commitment to Confucianism, the question of how Confucianism systematically shaped Pound's thoughts has not been convincingly answered.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7477-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. A Note on Romanization
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction: Keeping Confucian ʻBlossomsʼ from Falling
    (pp. 3-13)

    In the summer of 1923, Ezra Pound (1885-1972), the American poet then self-exiled in Paris, wrote a poem dedicated to the Chinese sage Confucius (c. 551-479 BCE). The poem, now known to Pound’s readers as the Confucian canto, ends with three memorable lines that encapsulate Pound’s almost lifelong commitment to Confucianism:

    The blossoms of the apricot blow from the east to the west, And I have tried to keep them from falling. (XIII/60)

    The apricot orchard alluded to here, the site of the famed Apricot Platform in the Confucian Temple in Qufu, Shandong Province, China, is the legendary place where...

  6. 1 Five Types of ʻMisreadingʼ in Poundʼs Confucian Translations
    (pp. 14-44)

    Pound once remarked that like many people he often loathed a ‘conscious’ act of reading and just wanted to read for no clear purpose.¹ Nevertheless, nobody would doubt that Pound, author ofABC of Reading, was acutely aware of the secrets of using reading to achieve consciously sought objectives. A prototypical ‘strong reader,’ Pound was aggressive, revisionary, and masterful both in English and several other languages. As with his reading of Homer, Propertius, and Dante, Pound read Confucius in a manner that unmistakably reflected his philosophy of reading, which adamantly treated reading as a powerful instrument in the cultural battle...

  7. 2 Confucianism and Poundʼs Rethinking of Language
    (pp. 45-83)

    When one opens the Ezra Pound journalPaideuma, two large Chinese characters on the inside cover immediately attract one’s attention: 正名 (zheng ming, Pound’sCh’ing MingorCheng Ming). The two characters refer to a major Confucian doctrine known in English as ‘to rectify names’ and seem to have been inscribed in the Ezra Pound journal as the poet’s Confucian hallmark. Beneath the two characters on the verso is Pound’s statement acclaimingzheng ming正名 as the ‘new Paideuma’, that is, the root of a ‘new civilization.’¹ On the same verso, Pound’s version of a celebrated Confucian passage fromDa...

  8. 3 Confucianism and Poundʼs Political Polemic
    (pp. 84-134)

    Ezra Pound’s political identity has always been a controversial issue for Pound scholars. Central to that issue is Pound’s confusing position on the relationship between the individual and the state. The question that Pound scholars find particularly intriguing is why the radically iconoclastic, liberal, and individualistic Pound began in the early 1930s to embrace a conservative and authoritarian ideology arid openly side with a notoriously oppressive regime in Fascist Italy. Since this change seemed to coincide with Pound’s increasingly intense devotion to the study of Confucian works, it is only natural for critics to view Confucianism as the major influence...

  9. 4 Confucianism and Poundʼs Spiritual Beliefs
    (pp. 135-182)

    Given the formidable extent of Pound’s intellectual interests, what he really believed appears to be a perplexing question to his readers. T.S. Eliot was the first to raise serious questions about Pound’s religious propensities. In a 1928 review of Pound’s collection of poems, Eliot commented on the ‘curious syncretism’ that he found characteristic of Pound’s writing. According to Eliot, Pound’s belief system was essentially a hodgepodge of irreconcilable, ‘antiquated’ views that included, among other things, medieval mysticism, Yeats’s Celtic myths, and ‘a steam-roller of Confucian rationalism.’¹ Eliot displayed an especially contemptuous attitude towards Confucianism, which he called ‘an inferior religion.’...

  10. Conclusion: Poundian-Confucian Humanism at the Crossroads
    (pp. 183-198)

    At the end ofThe Great Digest, his retranslation ofDa xuecompleted in the mid-1940s, Pound quotes his artist friend Tami Kume: ‘We are at the crisis point of the world’ (Con, 89). To many people, the labelling of a certain historical moment as a point of crisis may seem a cliché, an ideologue’s self-serving strategy of crying wolf. After all, human beings have experienced many crises, big and small, and yet history never turns back or stops but rather keeps moving forward, much to the satisfaction of some and the dismay of others. In the case of Pound,...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 199-224)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 225-236)
  13. Index
    (pp. 237-245)