“Centres and Peripheries: Topoi of Culture and Power in Pound’s Thought,” 24th Ezra Pound International Conference, Senate House, London, 5-9 July 2011

A recurring dialectic is established at numerous critical points in Pound’s poetry and prose: between a centre of power and a perceived hostile threat. This structure commonly occurs when Pound is dealing with historical material, especially in the Cantos: Imperial China and the barbarian threat of Buddhists, Taoists, and Mongols; the crumbling Roman Empire of Justinian and the military and economic threat of Abdl Malik in the eastern Mediterranean; and even the threat posed by the engineers of war in Pound’s lifetime, mobilising conflict for perceived financial gain at the cost of civilisation and humanity. What does this recurring structure tell us about Pound’s thinking more generally? Is it a necessary or otherwise desirable mechanism by which to legitimise centralised power, especially when that power is Pound’s subject in poetry or prose (such as the China Cantos)? How might this mechanism of centre and periphery be resolved with Pound’s earlier expression of opposition to authority in the Vorticist / Blast era, in the cultural centre of London? Or indeed his valorisation of the Na-Khi late in his poetic career? This paper will explore some examples of this mechanism in the prose and poetry, to establish the kind and strength of any emergent pattern, and to evaluate its significance more generally for Pound’s thought.

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About msbyron27

Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary British and American Literature, Department of English, University of Sydney
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One Response to “Centres and Peripheries: Topoi of Culture and Power in Pound’s Thought,” 24th Ezra Pound International Conference, Senate House, London, 5-9 July 2011

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