Jacob Trosen blog on Laura Winkle essay on Nancy Cunard’s anthology featuring Zora Neale Hurston’s essay, “Characteristics of Negro Expression”. Make-up blog.

In Winkel’s essay, the primary argument that I was engaged by is found on page 523, during which Winkle argues that part of the work of the Nancy Cunard’s Negro: An Anthology , especially the work by Zora Neale Hurston, is concerned with refiguring black Modernity as one of the creative forces of, but also in reaction towards, Modernity at large. Central to the problem as Winkle sees it, is that by presenting an alternative history of, as Aldon Nielsen writes, “active producers of the modern” then, “we must have modernity already there before us,” and thus “all such histories must immediately be seen as revisionist” (523). However, Winkle argues that Hurston’s “affirms this temporality” (that the Modern is something black modernity is responding to). She argues that Hurston’s defense of black mimicry constitutes a reaction towards detractors of black arts and culture within the context of Pound’s “make it new”. Continues to argue that Hurston turns this argument about originality around by reinscribing mimicry as a kind of variation on the source material, rather than a slavish imitation. Winkle writes that this is, in fact a way of “actively constitut[ing[ black “experience” as different from everyday dominant modes of perception in modernity…demand[ing] that [the bricolage mimicry] be understood as a confrontation of dominant narratives of modernity in the present moment (523).

While I certainly agree with Winkle that Hurston’s goal is a reimagining of what constitutes originality to include a kind of early sampling, the problem that I have is that I don’t believe Hurston would accept the claim that black modes of life are necessarily in response to modernism, but rather that there is something distinctly modern inherent within black art. That the goals and aesthetics generally agreed to be central to modernity are goals that are simply part of the African-American experience. To this end, we can look to several of the entries in Hurston’s “Characteristics of Negro Expression,” starting with “Negro Folklore”. When Hurston writes, “Negro Folklore is not a thing of the past…nothing is too old or too new, domestic or foreign, high or low, for his use” we could easily imagine the same sentence to describe Joyce’s “Ulysses”, or perhaps with a stretch, “The Wasteland” (27). Central to the concept of simultaneity is this same faith in the ability of art to transcend (to varying degrees) the delineating power of time. This ability, to call upon the work and ideas of the past with the same aptitude and force of the present seems to be the exact same negotiating of allusive power that we see in major landmark works in the white modernist canon. Furthermore, in the sections “Angularity” and “Asymmetry” we find descriptions that cannot be considered without connoting a kind of counterpoint. Hurston writes, “The presence of rhythm and lack of symmetry are paradoxical, but there they are…there is always rhythm, but it is the rhythm of segments. Each unit has a rhythm of its own, but when the whole is assembled it is lacking in symmetry.” (26). Fundamentally, this description of the intertwining of asymmetry and rhythm can be understood in a way as similar to our discussion of the two wheels turning in Stein’s “Four Saints in Three Acts”. Stein’s use of repetition that slowly accumulates and accumulates on the one hand, while charging forward with a steady pace on the other, reminds us of the same kind of play/friction between asymmetry and rhythm in Hurston’s essay.

Fundamentally, however, it is important to note that Hurston’s essay takes the form not of a descriptions of black art and life that is reactive is some constitutive way towards modernity, Rather, the essay seems primarily concerned with a recontextualization, or translation of black ways of viewing and understanding the world that are misconstrued by a white audience. At no point does Hurston argue that these characteristics are a new phenomenon. It is one thing to say that the essay itself is a reaction towards the values of modernism, and the gaze of the white modern. However, what is vital to our reaction to Winkle’s reading of Hurston’s entries in Negro:An Anthology is that the argument is that black modernity is a reaction to, and viewing it as concerned tied to modernism worries the boundaries of revisionary historicizing, negates the fundamental viewpoint of Hurston. These “characteristics of Negro expression,” while certainly fitting within many of the central aesthetic characteristics of modernism, are to Hurston, fundamental to blackness all the way down to its perception of the world, springing from their collective, shared experience of that world.

Works Cited

Cunard, Nancy. Negro: An Anthology. New York: Negro Universities, 1969. Print.

Winkiel, Laura A. “Nancy Cunard’s Negro and the Transnational Politics of Race.” Modernism/modernity 13.3 (2006): 507-530. Web.

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Blog One (make up blog)

Rhythm to me implies resonance. It is the force that drives a piece of music forward and gives it pace, and it is one of the elements that allows the listener to engage and follow. Engaging with art rhythmically would be to, in a sense, nod along with it and follow it and get it stuck in your head. Visual art brings a unique quality to this effect because it really never ends until the viewer looks away. Schoenberg made the point to Kandinsky that “when the artist reaches the point at which he desires only the expression of inner events and inner scenes in his rhythms and words, then the ‘object in painting’ has ceased to belong to the reproducing eye” (Albright 170). The process of expressing shape creates form. It moves through creation and recreation of the reproducing eye. Schoenberg is remarking on the subjectivity of art that gives it rhythm and words by his statement about what turns art into something objective, separate, stagnant.

I was looking at Kandinsky’s painting trying to apply some sort of understanding of rhythm or harmony in visual art, and I guess it frustrated me until I read the correspondence between him and Schoenberg. It seemed to me that both Schoenberg and Kandinsky understood the constructs of modern art and music working as and through each others’ terms, and then simultaneously both of them intentionally work against these things and within these things in order to create new form. “I am certain that our own modern harmony is not to be found in the ‘geometric’ way, but rather in the anti-geometric, anti logical way” (Albright 169) wrote Kandinsky to Schoenberg. This makes way more sense when looking at his work. Everything in the painting in the Butler reading looks like its moving up and criss-cross. Schoenberg responded by commenting on the “elimination of the conscious will in art”. Instead of having a geometric, conscious form, the painting moves in an original, stream of conscious way which creates new form. It’s organic and natural. It’s anti-rhythmical, or at least sort of syncopated. But, in its own way, it is continuous because every viewer then recreates the form by following its lines and blotches of color. The painting doesn’t have harmony, but dissonance in the way it is never “complete” or “finished”, like a triad with a random augmented or diminished 7th that leads it forward.

I really liked what Kandinsky had to say (and how he said it) about the two-sidedness of construction. He commented on the relationship between obtrusive geometry and dissonant expression in art and music. They seem to be opposing: one is self-conscious and purposeful, the other is free and expressive. He compares it to anarchy, which gives a sense of working against the rules, but always in relation to the rules. Even rejection to a subject inherently implies an engaging with that subject. I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that Kandinsky seems to approach this in the sequence of construct first, then rejection of such construct afterwards. On the other hand, I felt that Schoenberg approached it in the sequence of the creation of expression first, and then comes the deciphering of those “puzzles” which are created. Either way, one cannot attempt to authentically express originality because those expressions are actually conscious and therefore calculated. It is conscious of its subconscious, which seems paradoxical and is certainly inauthentic. It brings into question whether there is such thing as pure art. That constant anxiety over originality and push-and-pull of conflict is part of what is expressed in modern art and music. It’s what I think keeps it going and keeps it continuous.

Really, the practice of engaging with these art and music and literary forms is continuous, as well. Butler addresses the process of the reader/listener/viewer passing down the relevance of their experience with the subject to their “successors”, who then go through that same process except different, and on and on. This is what prompted me to want to learn how to approach modernism in the first place: it is a form that continually challenges whoever engages with it to produce a new and unique outcome. Its forever interactive.

Blog 1, Make-up

If we’re to not use adjectives to describe Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, the next best option seems to be verbs, and to use these verbs to say what the piece does.  This “parlour game” seems to be based on the idea of experiencing and engaging the music, rather than attempting to define it from the outside looking in.  There are things, and the things in the piece do certain things.  Nouns that “do” verbs is the only way to elaborate on the music in place without using adjectives.  I think it applies well to this particular musical piece; because if you are dealing with a piece of art that is different than the norm, and you can’t “describe” what is happening, you can experience it and explain what it is doing in your perspective.

The introduction flutters around, seemingly twittering about with an occasional banging of keys, with a woman’s voice that interjects and punches through the noise of the piano. The instruments change their positions from being background noise to being leading characters in any given instant.  The music clashes with itself.  It seems to refuse to harmonize, it refuses to flow, and the woman refuses to guide the music along.  The flute refuses to be ignored. They, more than the piano, and more than the other instruments, dominate their sections as they pierce the space.  The piano is the life of the music, without a doubt.  Whenever there is a lull the piano carries the piece along.  The woman, early on, disrupts the music while the piano continues to carry it and push the piece forward.  She fluctuates between singing and speaking.  At times she projects and at times, she merely is present.  There are times where the piece floats more in certain places, and the flutes make this effect.  It should be said that piano is capable of doing more, however.  It can be a force and it can be forgettable, depending on what surrounds it.  When the piano bangs, the mood changes aggressively, and the flutes bring it back to a place where the music can be a calming agent.

Oof.  I’m not sure if this is an easier or more difficult way to approach music.  In certain places, using verbs is the best way to describe what is happening.  The flow of the piece is so disjointed, and in some places so abrupt, that the only way to explain what is happening is to just say what is happening, rather than try to add an extra layer of confusion and disconnect by describing the actions. I think that the lesson that can be gained from this exercise is that music is much more of an action than a subject, and that it “does” more than it “is.”  The way that the woman performs seems to accurately depict the effects that Schoenberg mentions in the Albright anthology.

“It is never the task of performers to recreate the mood and character of the individual pieces on the basis of the meaning of the words, but rather solely on the basis of the music… where the performer finds it lacking, he should abstain from presenting something that was not intended by the author. He would not be adding, but rather detracting.” (38-39)

The music is the star, the music is the backbone, and the woman is merely there to play a part.  Her words seem to be meaningless, partially because I can’t understand them, but more so because it is more important “how” she says them, and how those words interact with the music, rather than what is actually being communicated.  The “Sprechstimme mode of Pierrot Lunaire” (39) serves as a perfect mode to have singers be a supplement, rather than the feature or main event of the piece.    It’s interesting that the singer has to differentiate between what Schoenberg describes as the “singing tone,” and the “speaking tone.”  She seems to do a fantastic job of this, and it has the effect of really complementing the tone of the music.  Harsher music, non-harmonic sections, places that seem to “bang” go very well with the spoken tone, and the areas where we hear flutes and softer instruments flow more smoothly work very well with the singing tone.

Bog 5 make up

A serious shrug, everything seems untouchable and incomprehensible at this point (surely a modernist anxiety). Winkiel does a good job of not being too prescriptive in her analysis of the anthology. Locating identity, history, and perspectives on race becomes increasingly difficult (considering how many are included in the anthology). In many ways, this seems to be beneficial to the discussion of race and social identity (of course over determination is always bad). I think the anthology is struggling with its position and determination of race in modernism. For instance, “The intention of the anthology, Cunard claims, is to speak from within and to a newly visible collective (“coloured people”) who announce their presence and engagement in modernity. (522) Note: I am confused initially by the use of the term modernity. Is this use of the word equating modernity with relevance? Winkiel aptly addresses the problems of romanticism and the otherwise suspicious editorial positions in the anthology. Her reading nonetheless exacerbates the problem (it must), even when her perspective and criticism is productive.

Winkiel repeatedly questions Cunard’s romanticism but instrumentation is equally dangerous. Her assessment of the anthology places it within the scope of modernism or counter-modernism (they seem very similar). She suggests that the incomplete and failed representation of coherent (ideal) black national perspective, identity, and voice is implicit in Cunard’s anthology, which in some way represents counter-culture. Trying to distill this perspective, consider “This politics of reading is not straightforward. Rather, it is angled, asymmetrical, and refracted through black relations to the white world. (522) The anthology’s deconstruction of black identity stems from a diverse list of topics and contributors. While I am fully aware, that text enmeshed in an ideology can nonetheless be used to subvert or deconstruct the dominant narrative. What I am trying to get at is that a text Like W.E.B. Dubois’s Black America, the task of deconstructing narrative is not explicitly a modernist behavior; rather his position and clarity elicit the anxiety of modernism. Identity, power and narrative is actually diffused throughout society it not just a characteristic of literature and a text.

I do appreciate Winkiel reinterpretation of productivity (I am swerving a bit). It becomes the duty of the reader to establish a better more productive reading. “These disparate pieces build a sense of unity in difference, a transnational allegiance against racism. Moreover, its “accumulative force” of meaning depends upon its readers’ experiential encounter with it. Nowhere is this more evident in Negro than in its diverse musical scores…that demand its readers’ participation to make meaning. One needs to “play” or “hum” Negro. By “arrangement,” each article, photo, and poem contributes to a heterogeneous, fissured understanding of the black diaspora. (522) Nonetheless, It is still through traditionally productive narratives that meaning and value is established. We need productive readers, who are intelligent enough to arrive at this same critical perspective. The problem most readers should face is Cunard’s conception racial identity and politic. This is a failure to recognize privilege. Fractured social identity takes precedent as a literary concept rather than a real lived condition.

I am trying to express in mild terms my anxiety about Winkle’s evaluation of the anthology and its place in modernism. In many cases, fracturing perspectives (seeing what is absent) contributes to a more comprehensive and critical perspective. One perspective may destabilize, challenge, or reinforce another, this is good. Yet, Winkle’s assessment minimizes the problem of Cunard’s editorial stance. The work of modernism can be done aside from the anthology. Winkle’s criticism does not fully grasp the problem of the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist agenda that is lends to the anthology. The material and social reality of life is bound by capitalist ideology, there is not a place outside of it, even in writing. What trouble me is that Winkiel’s reading cannot be reconcilable by a writer like Dubois who is largely concerned with the advancement of his people, whose well being depend on material conditions of living as well and intellectual advancement. That being said, I do feel that my position is produced more from anxiety inspired from modernism rather than any actual failure in Winkiel’s criticism. Everything feels so unstable, especially counter-modernism, where do I stand?

Amber Lee Blog 5 Make-Up

In the article, “Nancy Cunard’s Negro and the Transnational Politics of Race” Laura Winkiel very often makes a claim that Nancy Cunard’s Negro Anthology contains a multitude of “contradictions.” The “contradiction” that I find the most fascinating is “between detailing the horrors of colonization and racism and its jubilant and often primitivist celebration of popular black entertainers” (Winkiel 509) as if the experience of a black person in the modernist times cannot be both jaded and hardened by the world they live in and freely laude those who are successful and give them joy in life. I find that Laura Winkiel stating this as a contradiction when she also calls the anthology “far more than a rigid dichotomy, the anthology aims at a ‘panorama’ of black struggles and achievements against a racist modernity” (Winkiel 509) to be an interesting turn. It seems that Winkiel has some contradictions of her own in this article. It should be noted that while an anthology on a group of people should show the good times and the bad, we need to see the layers that go into them. The anthology shouldn’t be seen as a rigid dichotomy of joy and struggle because people’s emotions aren’t one or the other. I will explore what counts as a struggle and what counts as an achievement through the two sections “Hitting Back” by Henry Crowder and “Three Great Negro Women” by Gladis Berry Robinson to examine how the two explore the “panorama” of the struggles or achievements.

“Hitting Back” by Henry Crowder is formed as a series of vignettes (quite appropriate for an anthology) about times that he fought back against racism in his home. These events range from a joke that revealed the seriousness of the world to straight up brawls between white and black people. Even from the title, the reader can see this is a story of struggling against white superiority and racism. What is harrowing about these events is the casuality of them. The third vignette is about the author going home to where his father lives during the Atlanta riots and making a joke about demanding to be let in the house. After he realizes that the joke is going too far and gives his name, his father opens the door with a shot gun. The author solemnly states, “I will never try that kind of joke again” (Cunard 117) thus showing the audience that even joking about the riots under-cutted the seriousness of them and how they were affecting people. People were so riled up and afraid, that his father went to the door prepared to kill and die. This is particularly effective because it shows how people could become disconnected to what was happening around them because it was so common, but at the end of the day, people were dying and scared. The sixth vignette is about the narrator and his friends happening upon a group of white men beating one lone black man in the street, so they intervene and scare the white people away. Again, there is a casual tone about this story. Many of these stories are about one black man facing a beating from multiple white men for no good reason until more black men come and the white men back down. This story shows how common violence was. These stories make it especially clear that white men were very willing to beat a black man, but didn’t want to risk their own hides in a fair fight that the black men were willing to fight. This paints the white men as bullies, but also shows the kind of fear that a black man had when he was alone on the streets, because he could always get jumped. There is a bitterness in these stories, but I think they show a strong variety in the type of violence against black people that occurred and how common it was.

“Three Great Negro Women” by Gladis Berry Robinson is the telling of the lives of three great black women: Phillis Wheatley, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman. These women are inarguably some of the greatest women in American, if not world, history. Each section on each woman starts as historical retellings of the women’s lives and what they did that made them great with some personal comments from the author, especially for Phillis Wheatley. For Phillis Wheatley, the author takes note of how great her poetry and prose was despite the fact that she was born a slave and not appreciated for her talents. Truth and Tubman both fought for emancipation and freedom for black people and women’s rights. What is interesting about these women is that Phillis Wheatley sticks out a bit as not being as prominent and active as the other two, yet she is placed first. Her inclusion shows that the author doesn’t need great women to lecture presidents or be activists to make great strides for black women. Yet, she gets the most personal comments from the author, as if she feels the need to defend her choice to include Wheatley in the mix because she isn’t as obvious a choice as Truth and Tubman. Still, all of these women did what they did in during slavery and the Civil War where there was even more oppression for black women then when this article was written, so the author clearly wants to make a point that great women stand in the face of adversity even in the worst times.

What I like about these two writings is that they show diversity in what it means to succeed and struggle as a black person in America. They are snippets of a greater “panorama” but show great difference in what it means to be black. Both of these writings are anthologies themselves which proves how different the lives of black people can be, but they share enough commonality to be included in the larger work.

Antheil (Make up Blog)

Emily Thomson is spot on in her statement that “audiences [are] challenged to test their ideas about the distinction between music and noise.” Although within that Antheil also showed his audiences that the void that is created by lack of melodic flow and instead made into an atonal mess, it filled with pictures that don’t otherwise need to be shown through dance or on a screen. The audience already pictures a fire truck or ambulance when they hear the sirens or can visualize a clock when they hear the tic-tock. He, I would hope, is trying to prove the point that although something may be considered “noise” that it still can be composed in a way to wake the senses and open up a spectrum of visual art.

I would argue with Thomson on one point and that is that one does not necessarily have to be a “perceptive listener” to hear or understand what Antheil is attempting to do with his music. The disturbances in his music, his use of sirens, birds, or other things that are considered “noise” is used as a way to disrupt the listener. Like cleansing the pallet, the listeners take in this disruption and are forced to think about what constitutes music. How exactly can we find musicality in our surroundings, what kind of sounds are music and why was it made that way? In the same why that English literature has its “cannon authors” and that in turn has been questioned over the years, Antheil did the same thing in questioning what exactly can be used as an instrument. It does not take a “perceptive listener” to hear this rebellion.

As it is said in Modernism and Music, “Now in order to paint musical pictures one must admit right at the outset that the only canvas of music can be time. Music does not exist all at once like a painting but it unrolls itself. […] In other words time is our musical canvas” (71). This idea encompasses a more historical outlook on the idea of music. It makes the idea of “noise” in music more logically placed there than the flowing notes of some other instrument. To think of music as time, and as we live that is how we measure out lives, noise surround our lives every day. The things we become accustomed to, ambient noise, is something that Antheil is trying to bring to the forefront of the listeners mind. Make them more aware of the noise they live in.

Finding new sounds through new instruments reminds me of the “spiral” the Antheil mentions. He and other “acousticians and engineers” attempt to be the pinpoint of that spiral that extends out through all their listeners. We see this point proven when Thomsen says, “When they took those tools out of the laboratory and put them to work in a world filled with sound, they, too, challenged listeners to listen in new ways.” It is true, when one introduces new sounds or music into the general public that they then accept of reject it but either way, those words of those new sounds then spread it out wards just like the spiral. This spiral does not consist of just one pinpoint then but multiple little one, much like a connect the dots. These “tools” then are used in new ways to make music, to contradict what people are used to hearing and to challenge the listener, yet again.

Antheil is considered a modernist artist because of the way that he rebelled against the classical form of music. He did much to challenge not only himself but his listener. He also brought forth the idea that his listener could be a modernist too just by accepting this new form of art. Although most felt that conforming to the label of “modernist” would be the opposite of what they wanted to do by initially rebelling against labels, Antheil truly falls under the spell of this movement. And although at times he loses his reader, he does do one thing correctly, he emphasizes that music is not decidedly just one way or another, but can be considered many things at once. It is all dependant on the listener and the composer.

Pisan Cantos as a Lament of Modernism

Much of the form of Pound’s Pisan Cantos continues the Modernist experiments we discussed in class. To name just a few, techniques such as fragmentation, neoclassicism, and experimentation with non-linear time are all found within Pound’s poetry, but Pound’s use of these now maybe growingly familiar techniques also happen at in important historical juncture. Produced during Pound’s imprisonment in the U.S. Army’s Disciplinary Training Center at the end of WWII, the poems are created at the closing moments of the Modernist movement that will soon transition into the Postmodernist movement. Dating artistic movements always involves an arbitrary demarcation, and suggesting that Modernism begins roughly around WWI and ends with WWII does simplify in a way I’m uneasy with. But with the restrictions of time and space in this blog, this simple formula may prove useful in showing the continuities between the Modernist and Postmodernist literary periods. This retroactive reading reads much of the mourning tone and experimental form as the Modernist movement folding in on itself. Making use of our current historical juncture, we can use the Pisan Cantos to help clarify, and problematize, the distinction between Modernism and Postmodernism.

It is fun to hypothesize that Pound was distinctly aware of experiencing the end of the Modernist movement in the ways he knew it. That when begins this section of The Cantos his mourning the fall of Fascism in Cantos LXXIV lines 1-24 is his displaced personal recognition of the ending of his artistic movement as well. Pound codes his mourning of the fall of Fascism (and really, almost everything else in the poem as well) in such a way that creates a deeply personal feel. Giving T.S. Eliot the nickname of Possum in line 9, or referring to the Fascist leaders of Mussolini and his mistress by their first names in line 4 creates an ironic personal meaning despite the “impersonal neoclassicism” that both Pound and Eliot professed. This irony though gives a tragic tone to the poem as he mourns the tragedy of “the dream in the peasant’s bent” (74.1)—a tragedy ending with a bang, and not a whimper as Eliot proclaimed in “The Hollow Men”. His references to himself as no man, or the man the sun has gone down on all engage in this simply sad tone of the poem, and the known history and details about Pound’s imprisonment and extreme conditions reinforce the tragic feeling. Pound’s often delusional senses of historic importance and sense of self also create a distressful sympathy for someone with rather unsympathetic beliefs. His thoughts that he would soon clear this all up with President Truman, his presumed significance and personal relationship with Mussolini, and his belief that he could convert Stalin to his economics (see 74.33-46 and notes on 120. I’m not sure whose version of Marxism/economics I’m scared of more, Stalin’s or Pound’s) all greatly exaggerate the author’s sense of self. Once again, the irony of this exaggeration (possibly as a mental defense mechanism) comes from this being what would start as the end of Modernism. This exaggerated sense of self is tempered with the constant identifications with the Odysseus figure of “Nobody” and a man who the sun had gone down on that suggest Pound is aware the end has come, and Sieburth’s informative intro shows how this isn’t just the end of an artistic vision but, possibly facing the death penalty for treason, potentially the end of Pound as well.

With regard to the form of the poems, Pound’s difficulty here seems to be the climax of the Modernist dense texts. Fragmentation is taken to the extreme (it was mentioned in class that his later Cantos included a line “I can’t make it cohere”), the numerous allusions and different takes on classical form make annotations necessary for reading, and rules of language are pushed to such extremes that, even for a poem, the line breaks and unconventional capitalization rules seem to follow their own rules instead of traditional grammatical norms. None of this is new however, and the subjective perspectives and stream of consciousness technique of Pisan Cantos remind me of the “Camera Eye” sections of John Dos Passos’s U.S.A. trilogy, though Dos Passos is far from a Fascist sympathizer. One way of understanding these poems as an extreme version of Modernism is to think of the lack of context provided in the original poem. Dos Passos used different literary genres—biographical, historical, fictional, and the stream of consciousness—to create the needed context to decode his works, or Faulkner’s difficult Benjy section of Sound and the Fury is countered/supplemented with (but still a difficult) Jason’s fairly straight forward section and the final, narrated section. Contrary to this, Pound’s Pisan Cantos takes these experiments to new levels in ways that seems to explore (if read retrospectively, map the ending) the Modernist techniques of fragmentation, experimentation of form, and subjectivity.

Perhaps through this experimental form it is possible to see in The Pisan Cantos the Modernist fetishization of form folding in on itself. Ironically, Pound seems to rely on free verse despite his (and Eliot’s) previous denouncements of free verse as lacking form. WWII being the historical impotence of the Modernist movement, the movement’s inability to prevent another bloody world war, puts enough strain as to break the Modernist attempt to impose form onto a chaotic violent world. Free verse focuses on an internal rhythm instead of an imposed, external form. The Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab suggests that with the movement from Modernism to Postmodernism is the movement from form to anti-form. While like the historical dates provided at the beginning of this reading this may simplify manners here, it does help understand and distinguish between the two movements. The mourning tone of Pound’s cry that he can’t make it cohere suggests Modernism’s loyalty to form and order, but Postmodernist would relish in “formless” ever-morphing structures. While the modernist broke old form to make it new, post-modernist celebrated broken form and structures. Pound’s voice here, at this literary crossroads, still mourns the grand-narrative style associated with Modernist authors (and critiqued by postmodernist authors).

The Purdue Owl Writing Lab offers a list of Modernist versus Post Modernist techniques, and I think three can be seen to immediately help situate Pound’s Pisan Cantos as a text between the transition of the two movements. The lab suggests Modernists prefer form but Postmodernists prefer anti-form, Modernists prefer transcendence but Postmodernists move to imminence, and finally the movement from hierarchy to anarchy. Pound seems to be between, or simultaneously both, in all of these categories. His free-verse still involves a plethora of forms, but these forms seem to be dissolving before the reader’s eyes. The poem seems to exist at the limit or implosion of High Modernist form. His religious imagery, despite his atheism, suggests a breakdown between the separations of transcendence/imminence when he reminds the reader that paradise is not artificial (74.458 is one place of many he uses the phrase). And while so much academic work has made these Cantos accessible to new student, and while much of Pound’s writing seems to strive to make a new paradise from bits of the past, every moment of this “cohesiveness of a project” seems to unravel as the poem continues. Despite Pound’s best efforts, despite his hope he would convert the ruins and rumbles of his Fascist dream to a new paradise, he in many ways fails. This failure, this extreme experimentation in form and language, offers a transition point to Postmodernism. A movement I think best understood if considered to be a continuation of the Modernist project. Postmodernism will turn modernism on itself, apply its critiques to Modernists own (frequently considered grant/master narratives) form, and as Pound’s Modernist form falls in on itself in Pisan Cantos Postmodernist will continue and revel in this unraveling.

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/722/08/