Within the first ten years of the twentieth century, American intellectual Ernest Fenollosa (1853-1908) had written an essay, later edited and published by Ezra Pound (1885-1972), that was called “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry” (1920; 1936). This essay proved crucial to not only American Modernism—Pound used it to promote the Imagist movement in poetry—but also to the development of the perception of Chinese language and culture in the West. The essay propounded the idea that Chinese is primarily a pictographic language, a view that has persisted in the West to the present day. Furthermore, it posits that this pictographic quality plays a key role in the writing and interpretation of Chinese poetry. While generally dismissed as Orientalist by contemporary scholars of East Asia, UC-Santa Barbara professor Yunte Huang disagrees with this simplistic reading. On the one hand, he agrees that the Orientalism rampant in this essay cannot be ignored. On the other hand, he sees the essay as key in the ongoing, roundabout inventing of culture that occurs as texts cross cultural and linguistic borders, and thus as important to the trajectory of thought concerning the Chinese language in the West today.
Around 1978, Bruce Andrews, Ron Silliman and I started a service to make xerox copies of out of print work available. The catalog began with this introduction:
L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E DISTRIBUTING SERVICE
Even when published, writing we wish to read often goes out of print with dismaying rapidity – closing off a dialogue. Out-of-print and unpublished works may still circulate among a limited circle of friends. Here, we hope to sustain that dialogue, and expand that circle.
Several types of material are available. Photocopies of out-of-print books and unpublished manuscripts are available at the cost of the photocopying and packaging plus a twenty-five cent royalty to the author. These works will be sent side-stapled with card stock covers, stamped by L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E and numbered. In a few cases, a small number of books are available in their original published form at the price specified. All orders must be prepaid and include the cost of postage (see table below).
–– Charles Bernstein, Ron Silliman, & Bruce Andrews