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4 - Pound, Yeats, and the Regional Repertory Theatres

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 December 2017

James Moran
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham, UK
Neal Alexander
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham, UK
James Moran
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham, UK
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Summary

The non-existence of Ireland

Ezra Pound disliked Ireland. He never visited the country, and repeatedly condemned its politics and cultural attitudes. In February 1915 he dismissed the Irish in an article in The New Age by declaring: ‘I simply cannot accept the evidence that they have any worth as a nation, or that they have any function in modern civilisation, save perhaps to decline and perish if that can be called a function’. He pointed out that ‘even the politics may, for all one hears to the contrary, be cooked up in England or in Germany or in my own country’. For Pound, Ireland not only failed to merit Home Rule, but failed to qualify as a fully realised entity at all, and he entitled his essay, ‘The non-existence of Ireland’, inadvertently anticipating D. H. Lawrence's view of Ireland as ‘a country which doesn't really exist’. When Jean Baudrillard analysed the First Gulf War he famously asked ‘event, are you there? Gulf War, are you there?’; and concluded that he had found only an ‘aporia' Pound did something similar in 1915, doubting the existence of Ireland because the best Irish writers could be found in exile, from where they attempted to speak the truth about a country that had been made unreal by its physical absence from their lives.

Pound expressed similarly strong, and similarly negative, opinions about the theatre. Indeed, the fact that drama has often been awkwardly incorporated into studies of literary modernism is partly a legacy of Pound's downbeat assessments. In 1915 he read the manuscript of Joyce's Exiles, and questioned whether a play could ever share equal status with a novel or poem. He concluded that Joyce had made a poor choice in opting to write for the playhouse, remarking:

My whole habit of thinking of the stage is: that it is a gross, coarse form of art. That a play speaks to a thousand fools huddled together whereas a novel or poem can lie about in a book and find the stray persons worth finding. For Pound, the fleeting, transitory nature of performed drama meant that audience members would always be unable to concentrate on subtlety and complexity as they might with a printed text.

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Regional Modernisms , pp. 83 - 103
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2013

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