four cheers for literary history
Up with literary history!
A while back, Mark wrote this: "Maybe I’m just expressing my hankering for informative literary history that is able to synthesize large amounts of data, and to draw the sorts of connections that one doesn’t get merely from reading the poets’ books and the poets’ biographies – Alan Filreis’s book on Stevens in the 1930s, for instance, which not merely changes one’s view of WS, but rewrites the entire landscape of 1930s American poetry. There has been no even half-way decent overview of post-war American innovative poetry that can compare with the various histories of modernism out there."
And here's a paragraph from Mark's paper, "Blood to the Ghosts: Biography and the New Modernist Studies" - delivered at Cornell in October 2002. Thank you, Mark!
The ideological bases of "high" modernist poetics, poetics which for so long were taken as self-evidently heroic ruptures with fin-de-siècle stasis, have been examined in unprecedented detail and sometimes subjected to withering critique, as in Gilbert and Gubar's No-Man's Land, Peter Nicholls's Modernisms: A Literary Guide, and Raymond Williams's posthumous The Politics of Modernism. And the writings and ideological commitments of the canonical modernist poets have finally begun to receive adequate historical contextualization. Literary scholars have rarely written about "The Waste Land", The Pisan Cantos, or Auden's "Spain, 1939," without at least nodding towards historical context, but those nods were often exceedingly perfunctory. Far more detailed, careful, and revelatory are Alan Filreis's work on Wallace Stevens, for instance, or Lawrence Rainey's on Ezra Pound. Filreis's two books, which examine Stevens's career during the 1950s and the 1930s, have demolished once and for all the image of that poet as an ideologically detached contemplator of reality and the imagination. Rainey's Ezra Pound and the Monument of Culture has demonstrated not only the idiosyncratic, ad hoc, and ideologically motivated routes and methods of Pound's appropriations of Italian Renaissance culture, but how Pound criticism has in its turn largely overlooked or ignored those idiosyncracies and ideological motivations, implying instead that Pound simply drew upon some monumental, homogeneous archive of "true" history. MORE...