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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

Poetry and Prejudice: Justifying One’s Valuation of Pound

7th September 2011, 17:30 to 18:30, Alington House, Durham, Jack Baker

A Late Summer Public Lecture organised by postgraduates in the Department of English Studies.

Ezra Pound’s poetic reputation is still sullied by his distasteful politics. Pound’s eccentric economic theories led him into anti-Semitism, and into the delusion that fascism might be a panacea forEurope’s ills. These beliefs find repeated and troubling expression in his verse, creating a tension between art and politics that is most keenly manifest in the Pisan Cantos, for which Pound was controversially awarded the Bollingen prize in 1948. This sequence, composed while Pound was held in a military detention camp atPisa, contains passages of striking lyric beauty, but it is also infused with examples of the poet’s lingering anti-Semitic and fascist sympathies. My lecture will consider the Pisan Cantos in relation to this enduring problem: can the aesthetic value of a work of art be reconciled with its repellent sentiments? Taking its cue from F.R. Leavis’s provoking essay “Justifying One’s Valuation of Blake”, this lecture will reconsider the relation of aesthetics to politics in Pound, and ask what moral considerations, if any, should attend the evaluation of poetry.

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