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Ezra Pound and the rhetoric of science, 1901-1922

By K.K. Howey

Abstract

This thesis identifies science as Ezra Pound’s first extended extra-poetic interest. This reference to science in Pound’s poetic theory and poetry is portrayed as rhetoric, with its emphasis on the linguistic signifier or word rather than the actual concepts and data of science. The material covers over two decades between 1901, when Pound entered university, and 1922, after he left London. Beginning with Pound’s exposure to philology, the thesis establishes a correlation between his educational background and his use of scientific rhetoric in his prose. As he attempted to establish a professional status for the poet, he used metaphors linking literature to the natural sciences and comparisons between the poet and the scientist. Additionally, Pound attempted to organize poetic movements that resembled the professional scientific organizations that were beginning to form in America. In his writings promoting these movements, Pound developed a hygienic theory of poetry— itself an extensive rhetorical project—which produced a clean, bare poem and further linked Pound’s poetic output with the sciences. Beyond his rhetorical use of science, Pound attempted to study the sciences and even adopted a doctor persona for his friends with illnesses—both diagnosing and prescribing cures. When Pound was planning to leave London, he also considered entering medical school—a biographical fact to which Pound scholarship has paid little attention. His decision not to formally study the sciences reinforced his identity as a poet and his representations of scientific knowledge as mere rhetoric. This interest in the sciences, and medicine in particular, influenced Pound’s poetry and prose because of their frequent references and their alignment with literature. Additionally, this early use of rhetoric and an exploration into extra-poetic materials prepares Pound for his later, better-known and often infamous explorations of economics and social theory

Publisher: UCL (University College London)
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.ucl.ac.uk.OAI2:17429
Provided by: UCL Discovery

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