Saturday, April 07, 2007

DuPlessis on Pound

from Blue Studios

Chapter 6 "Propounding Modernist Maleness"

DuPlessis writes on Pound (the poet and his practices) as an example of "managing" the women poets, thinkers, artists that might have otherwise moved more fully into the modernist circles inhabited by Pound and his contemporaries. Specifically here, DuPlessis gives a reading of Pound's poem "Portrait d'une Femme" which is presented as a poem addressed to a generic woman (as muse, inspiration for and subject of the poem), but is more specifically, in actuality, about Florence Farr, a woman artist and actor who was active in the respective artistic and literary circles of her time (barely a generation earlier than Pound), and was on good terms with the poet Yeats, among others.

"A postformalist reading strategy...must look at the deep formal mechanisms of literary texts with New Critical Care yet link formal moves to the issues that purist New Criticism rejected: social substance, biographical traces, constructions of subjectivity, historical debates, and ideological strata" (122).

In the poem Pound moves Farr from status as real person (woman) to a place of "figured representation as muse" (124) and thereby removes any agency that she might have/had. Through both content and formal strategy, he presents the female figure of the poem "as virtual lack, inadvertent creativity, and compromised ability" (125). In this way (without agency and possession) she becomes the generic muse figure.

"The poem becomes a muted, backhanded tribute..." to her own modernist tendencies and strategies, both acknowledging and "disparaging" the "source" of the artistic production (of her own work and of her place as real in his poem) (126).

In her own life, Farr "played the muse but also mused the play" in her relationships with other artists and through her own "critical agency"; "she situated herself on both sides of the muse-agent compact" (127).

"...for females entering modernity, artistic agency and erotically charged inspiring with free love bravura are mixed together and give tremendous professional power and satisfaction in ways that the pure stereotyped form of "muse" wisdom-in-passivity-and-sublimation cannot articulate" (127).

For a time, it's possible that Pound felt like a rival to Farr for the attentions of Yeats on his own (Pound's) work (128).

"Pound produces [this] work by the thematic occlusion inside it of the work of the woman on whom the poem is based" (130).

"The real figure has been transformed from a critical, powerful, influential, outspoken, and original historical woman to a textual "femme"--one of a muse of modernism--an inadequate, anonymous and displaceable female figure...Pound's poem is a mechanism in the service of one kind of male subjectivity by the active creation of a shallow but provocative female muse for the containment of historical New Woman effervescence and achievement. This is an important transposition in the relationship of modernism to modernity. By representing a female figure in this way, Pound has contained, grounded, or stalled consideration of the impact-laden presence and agency of the "real person" on whom the poem was based, making the figure an Old Woman with useful muse properties, an exemplum of old stuff that still somehow inspires. Poetic representation masters this female figure, using poetic institutions like "muse" in order to deflect attention away from the historical achievements of Farr, the hidden subject" (133).

"Making an coequal historical woman into a poetic muse thins her...evokes the past of poetry as an institution obscuring her...the muse is a mechanism that takes a modern subject--a New Woman-- and changes her into an encumbered, static, nonmodern subject...moves Farr backward...creating female belatedness from a woman pioneer in order to consolidate a male pioneer from a man's sense of his own belatedness...The resistance to acknowledging females as modern subjects...may be said to begin, in Anglo-American modernism, with poems such as this one" (136).

"Pound uses poetic convention to protect himself from historical shifts around gender" (136).

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