The Birth of Modernism

The Birth of Modernism: Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, and the Occult

Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, and the Occult
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The Birth of Modernism
    Book Description:

    While W.B. Yeats' occultism has long been acknowledged, Surette is the first to show that Ezra Pound's early intimacy with Yeats was based largely on a shared interest in the occult, and that Pound's The Cantos is a deeply occult work. Surette argues that Pound's editing of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land was not motivated primarily by stylistic concerns, as has generally been contended by the New Critics, but by thematic considerations. In fact, it was precisely because Eliot knew Pound to be well informed about the occult that he asked for Pound's assistance with The Waste Land.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6377-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
    Leon Surette
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-36)

    Now that the twentieth century is drawing to a close, we can truly begin to write the history of modernism. Until the present, modernism has been allowed to write its own history – a role that cannot be denied a cultural movement. But now that postmodernism has bared the particularity and partiality of modernist claims to universality and impartiality, as well as all other such claims, we can for the first time put under scrutiny the paradigms, mind-sets, orWeltanschauungenthat made up literary modernism.

    In a sense, the history of modernism is still dark and hidden, even now as we...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Discovering the Past
    (pp. 37-95)

    Although literary scholarship has not ignored occult and mystical elements in the literary canon, almost all of the attention is directed at the mystical and transcendental aspects of the occult. Such a concentration of attention is perfectly reasonable, but it has left out of account the political and cultural history that makes up a large part of occult literature. No doubt this neglect has been motivated by the bizarre and untrustworthy nature of occult historical speculation, which relies on ancient principles of historiography and scholarly procedures that have long been discredited. But literature is a repository for all sorts of...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Occult Tradition in The Cantos
    (pp. 96-156)

    The Abbé Barruel’sMemoirswere designed to discredit the French Revolution by associating it with disreputable groups and doctrines, which for him were Enlightenment atheism, Rousseauean egalitarianism, and republicanism. In this respect he was scarcely eccentric, even if modern scholarship paints a rather less Whiggish picture of the French Revolution. Barruel concentrated his attack on “atheism,” a term which then included any non-Christian belief, whether pantheism, immanentism, or materialistic atheism. A less confusing label for this basket of unchristian beliefs was the “religion of nature,” and this is the term Barruel uses most often. His favourite targets are pantheistic or...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Nietzsche, Wagner, and Myth
    (pp. 157-230)

    The topic of this chapter – Nietzsche, Wagner, and myth – is too vast even for a single book. Nonetheless some effort must be made to place Pound and modernism in the context of these two colossal figures and their impact on the study of myth. Nietzsche and Wagner have received far less attention from literary scholars than one would expect, even though the ubiquity of their influence on literature is widely granted. David S. Thatcher’sNietzsche in England 1890–1914(1970) is the best study of Nietzsche’s influence on the artistic and political scene, although it is seldom cited by literary...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Pound’s Editing of The Waste Land
    (pp. 231-279)

    In the preceding chapters we have surveyed a galaxy of texts and authors that came together in the poetic program of Ezra Pound to produce an unexampled work inThe Cantos.It has not been possible to do much more than indicate some ways in which Pound’s epic manifests its occult provenance by pointing to occult motifs, themes, and topics in a few isolated instances. A full-dress demonstration of the occult nature ofThe Cantosis quite within reach but could not be accommodated within this study without extending it well beyond reasonable length. Even though it does not properly...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 280-290)

    Much work remains to be done before we understand the cultural and political turmoil of this century. The purpose of this study has been to demonstrate that literary scholarship has systematically misconstrued the career of Ezra Pound. This misconstrual is important because it is only a special case of a broader misconstrual of the phenomenon of aesthetic modernism generally by New Criticism.

    Even though my subject has been literary modernism, I began with the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, because I think that is where my particular story begins. It is also the period when the breach between religion and...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 291-306)
  11. Index
    (pp. 307-320)