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Title: Towards a Modernist Hellenism: Ezra Pound, H.D., and the Translation of Greece
Authors: Stergiopoulou, Aikaterini (Katerina)
Advisors: Heller-Roazen, Daniel
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: Ezra Pound
H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)
Subjects: Comparative literature
American literature
Classical studies
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation revisits the literary relationship between Pound and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) during and after the Imagist period, offering a new reading of the origins and development of modernist poetics through the prism of its relationship to Greece and to translation. I claim that the two writers' engagement with Greek antiquity should be seen not as a conservative or idealizing commitment to tradition, but rather as a circuitous turn towards creating a new English-language poetics fit to address the pressing cultural and political issues of their time. Building on scholarly work on Hellenism in the Romantic, Victorian, and fin-de-siècle periods, I examine how the legacy of Greece was taken up and transformed by two of the initiators of poetic modernism in English: Pound, the founder of Imagism, and H.D., its first practitioner. Focusing on their engagement with theories of the image and of rhythm and prosody in their critical writings and (in the case of H.D.) novels, I show how Pound and H.D formulate and negotiate poetry's position between prose, music, and the visual arts through their encounters with Greek, a process which culminates in their theatrical experiments with Greek tragedy in their later work. The first chapter revisits Pound's articulation of Imagist poetics and his collaboration with Eliot in the 1910s through the prism of his ambivalent and self-contradictory use of Greek. The second chapter turns to H.D. during the same period; it tracks the development of her poetics as a poetics of translation and it claims that her engagement with Greece is more deeply textual, self-conscious, and historically aware than has been recognized. The third and fourth chapters juxtapose H.D.'s and Pound's particularly prosodic engagement with Greek tragedy: the third chapter focuses on H.D.'s rhetorical and actual engagement with Euripidean rhythm and meter, through which, I argue, she questions and measures out the relationship between "antiquity" and "modernity" as well as the possibility and value of writing poetry itself, while the fourth considers Pound's understudied and highly experimental version of Sophocles's <italic>Elektra<italic> (1949). Chapters Five and Six examine H.D.'s and Pound's radical transformations of Euripides's <italic>Ion<italic> (1937) and Sophocles's <italic>Women of Trachis<italic> (1954) respectively, and demonstrate their significance in determining the direction of the two poets' subsequent poetic work. More specifically, I read H.D.'s Ion in the context of her analysis with Freud and argue that through it she works out an anti-Oedipal and anti-intellectual psychoanalytic theory of poetry that allows her to resume poetic writing during the Second World War; returning, then, to Pound's early work with Yeats on the Noh, I show that his Women of Trachis constitutes the realization of the long Imagist poem proclaimed in 1916. This dissertation thus situates Pound and H.D.'s work both in a larger cultural, literary, and historical context, in which different definitions of Hellenism were in conflict, and in a modernist debate (involving, for example, T.S. Eliot, T.E. Hulme, Richard Aldington, W.C. Williams, Marianne Moore, and D.H. Lawrence) on the relevance of Greek poetics for poetry in English. It demonstrates that Pound and H.D. turn to Greek literature at crucial points in their careers and that it is through their translations from Greek that they first address both poetological questions, such as the form of new poetry in English, and sociopolitical ones, such as the relevance and role of poetry in times of war. Focusing on the ways in which Pound's and H.D.'s approach to Greek diverges from the dominant discourses of and on Hellenism current in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, I make a claim for the existence of a politicized, modernist Hellenism, which is at once "free" and un-Greek by philological and institutional standards and profoundly textual. Moreover, by tracing the specter of Greece in the development of Anglo-American poetic modernism, I argue for the importance of the consideration of translation in any account of modernist poetics and at the same time highlight the extent to which these poets' work challenges and redefines familiar categories of thinking about translation.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Comparative Literature

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