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Ezra Pound’s early experiments with major forms, 1904-1925 : Directio Voluntatis McKeown, Thomas Wilson


This dissertation argues that the coherent vision and single impulse which led to the major form of the Cantos also underlay Ezra Pound's seemingly disparite early experiments. In order to demonstrate that Pound's pre-occupation with major form provided a common denominator between his earliest, middle, and mature poetry, I have divided this study into three sections, which correspond to the three main stages of Pound's development. Part One: Instigation (1904-1911), demonstrates the two theories of perfect form that first attracted the young Pound, and documents his drive toward ever-subtler architectonic structures in his initial phase of development. Part Two: Experiment (1912-1919), re-defines the three qualities of rhythm, tone, texture, as they apply to Pound's experiments with major form. Part Three: Accomplishment (1920-1925), describes what stimulated Pound's theoretical breakthrough in 1922, and traces the expression of this theory through XVI Cantos, to show that this first installment of Pound's major poem fused his theory and practice of poetry. This achievement can only be properly appreciated properly, however, in the context of his earlier twenty-year experiment with other major forms. The Conclusion points out that the critical moment in the evolution of Pound's exploration of major forms occurred when he dropped his aspiration to write a purely personal document featuring "perfect" form, and became content to write a broader social "testament." Underneath the formal superstructures of his attempts at major form, Pound's holistic vision provided the base, or "unwobbling pivot", for his attempt to "show men the way to try" to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the patterned integrities of the "vital universe": stone, tree, and mind—alive.

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