U. of SHANTOUN
| "Forget your footnotes on the old Gentlemen; / Dance around Mary" was John Berryman's advice to "assistant professors" at the MLA. Berryman's "Dream Song 35" always runs through my head whenever I hear “MLA.” As usual, though, there were a lot of footnotes and not much in the way of dancing (speaking for myself). For those of you who did not attend, this year the MLA was in Canada's canny town of Vancouver, leaving many a scholar in the US on a student visa or any graduate student without funding home to nurse late-New Year hangovers far away from North America’s largest literati cabal. The result was a quieter, calmer convention in an extremely spacious waterfront convention center, perhaps a reflection of Canada itself. This year's MLA theme was "negotiating sites of memory," and as per MLA fashion the panels varied from excellent to ridiculous. The Ezra Pound panels fell in the former category, thanks to the efforts of Ira Nadel, Demetres, Tryphonopoulos, and Melissa Bradshaw who did the heavy lifting behind the scenes to make the Pound studies panels a success.
Canada-related topics were prominent on the MLA program, Ezra Pound studies included. The first of two panels with a focus on Pound, "Ezra Pound's Reception in Canada," was chaired by the hometown, University of British Columbia, distinguished professor, Ira Nadel. "CIV/n and Ezra Pound: Toward a Canadian Paideuma," presented by Professor Anderson Araujo of the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, kicked off the panel by examining the connections and tensions between writers associated with the Montreal-based journal, CIV/n and Ezra Pound, as the Canadian avant-garde sought its own poetics outside the shadow cast by Anglo-American modernism. Araujo discussed the links that several poets had with Pound, and carefully examined works published in CIV/n that demonstrated traces of Pound's influence and the resultant intertextual synergy. Professor Tony Tremblay of Saint Thomas University shed light on Marshall McLuhan's relationship with Pound and how their ideas on education through local culture found an unlikely home in rural New Brunswick. The paper looked carefully at the respective figures’ attitudes towards social changes in a modern world of mass culture and how this figured in their pedagogies. Demetres Tryphonopoulos closed the panel with "From A Light to Eleusis to Twentieth-Century's Sixth Circle of Hell: Leon Surette's Pound." In this paper, Tryphonopoulos nuanced readings of the Cantos by the literary critic, scholar, and mentor to several Canadian Pound scholars, Leon Surrette. Students of Marshall McLuhan and Leon Surrette were on hand and shared their experiences with these important Canadian thinkers.
The second panel, chaired by Demetres Tryphonopoulos, examined the often simplified or simply neglected literary relationship between Ezra Pound and Amy Lowell. The three papers contrasted in styles, ranging from archival research to explication and theorization. Melissa Bradshaw, in her paper entitled "'He Said, She Said': Ezra Pound and Amy Lowell in Each Other's Letters," examined Amy Lowell’s archive to discover that letter exchanges between Lowell and Pound were not included. This forced her to read between the lines of the papers and letters she donated to Harvard to shape her legacy and the fragments that remain from their correspondence in other archives. Bradshaw’s shrewd analysis of these materials allows for a new narrative of the Pound-Lowell relationship that is much more complex than the one shaped by their scuffle over Imagism. This paper was followed by my own, which examined Amy Lowell and Ezra Pound’s modernist Orientalism as a form of camp: following Susan Sontag’s notes on camp I drew connections between decadent writers and modernism, and made a larger claim about Orientalism as an aristocratic form of cultural nationalism that provided a cosmopolitan distinction from prevailing populist visions of national culture. Jeffrey Blevins in his paper "Images, Memories, Gardens: On Two Poems by Pound and Lowell," found a poetic space the two poets tended that not only leads us into intimate spaces of their poetics but also shapes instructive differences between their respective philosophies of imagism.
Both panels were followed by lively discussions that were carried on late into the Vancouver night and in a couple of cases went even further—into the rainy mist of the Pacific Northwest dawn. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ira Nadel, Demetres Tryphonopoulos, and Melissa Bradshaw for all their hard work in putting these panels together, and I look forward to seeing these papers assume published form.