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Andrew Gross

The Pound Reaction Liberalism and Lyricism in Midcentury American Literature
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Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2015

 

 

Ezra Pound was confined in a mental institution and facing treason charges when he won the first Bollingen Prize in 1949. Pound’s defenders claimed that the prize proved artistic freedom to be alive and well in the United States. Only totalitarian regimes forced artists to tow the party line. The Pound Reaction explores how a number of writers responded to this free speech defense of Pound’s poetry.

Those discussed include Bollingen committee member Karl Shapiro, who believed that his vote against Pound ruined his career; W. H. Auden, who voted for Pound but suggested his work should be suppressed; Peter Viereck, the poet and conservative thinker whose father was a convicted Nazi propagandist; John Berryman, who struggled with the legacy of Pound’s anti-Semitism throughout his career; and Katherine Anne Porter, who voted to honor Pound’s poetry but thought the poet should stand trial (he never did). Other writers discussed include Lowell, Bishop, Plath, Ginsberg, and Leslie Fiedler.

 

CONTENTS

Preface ix

Introduction    1

I. Lyrical Freedom and Institutional Confinement: Following in Pound’s Footsteps   43

II. Liberalism and Lyricism, or Karl Shapiro’s Elegy for Identity         67

Trial of a Poet        69

Individualism and Identity       73

Identity as Confession         79

Shapiro’s Elegy for Identity     83

III  Individualism, Auden’s Anxiety, and the Liberal Unconscious       95

An Age Takes a Name        96

Auden’s Anxiety           104

Pound beyond the Pale     120

IV  “When conservatism was still a dirty word ...”:    
Modernism, New Conservatism, and Peter Viereck’s “Poetry of Ideas”          127

The Pound Reaction and the Liberal Aesthetic        136

Conservatism and Literature: Viereck contra Pound   139

Remembering Viereck: “When conservatism was still a dirty word”   154

Forget Viereck             163

V  “Pull Down Vanity”: Porter, Fiedler, and the Pornographic Imagination  
(A Prosaic Interlude)   165

Porter: The Passionate Limits of Individualism           173

Love and Death at Midcentury                        189

VI Imaginary Jews and True Confessions: Ethnicity, Lyricism, and John Berryman’s The Dream Songs  201

“The Imaginary Jew” and the Mirror of Anti-Semitism           205

Genocide, Poetry, and the Doctrine of Impersonality             209

The Dream Songs, Impersonation, and Palatable Monstrosity    214

Imaginary Jews, True Confessions, and Ethnicity                    219

Epilogue          227

Bibliography    233

Index               251

 

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