Ernest Fenollosa, Ezra Pound: Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry (1919–)

29 December 2014, dusan

“First published in 1919 by Ezra Pound, Ernest Fenollosa’s essay on the Chinese written language has become one of the most often quoted statements in the history of American poetics. As edited by Pound, it presents a powerful conception of language that continues to shape our poetic and stylistic preferences: the idea that poems consist primarily of images; the idea that the sentence form with active verb mirrors relations of natural force. But previous editions of the essay represent Pound’s understanding—it is fair to say, his appropriation—of the text. Fenollosa’s manuscripts, in the Beinecke Library of Yale University, allow us to see this essay in a different light, as a document of early, sustained cultural interchange between North America and East Asia.

Pound’s editing of the essay obscured two important features, here restored to view: Fenollosa’s encounter with Tendai Buddhism and Buddhist ontology, and his concern with the dimension of sound in Chinese poetry.

This book is the definitive critical edition of Fenollosa’s important work. After a substantial Introduction, the text as edited by Pound is presented, together with his notes and plates. At the heart of the edition is the first full publication of the essay as Fenollosa wrote it, accompanied by the many diagrams, characters, and notes Fenollosa (and Pound) scrawled on the verso pages. Pound’s deletions, insertions, and alterations to Fenollosa’s sometimes ornate prose are meticulously captured, enabling readers to follow the quasi-dialogue between Fenollosa and his posthumous editor. Earlier drafts and related talks reveal the developmentof Fenollosa’s ideas about culture, poetry, and translation. Copious multilingual annotation is an important feature of the edition.”

Critical edition
Edited by Haun Saussy, Jonathan Stalling, and Lucas Klein
Publisher Fordham University Press, 2008.
ISBN 0823228681, 9780823228683
240 pages

Reviews: Armstrong (Sign Language Studies, 2009), Nicholls (Modernism/modernity, 2010), Beam (Oyster Boy Review, 2012).
Commentary: Williams (2009).

Publisher (2008)

Fenollosa’s documents in the Beinecke Library.
Version published in The Little Review, 1919: 6:5 (Sep 1919), 62-64, 6:6 (Oct 1919), 57-64, 6:7 (Nov 1919), 55-60, 6:8 (Dec 1919), 68-72 (at Index of Modernist Magazines).
Version printed in Instigations, 1920, 357-388 (at Internet Archive), HTML (at Project Gutenberg).
Critical edition, 2008: EPUB.

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