Metaphor and the Limits of Print in Ezra Pound's Cantos

Claire Battershill
Simon Fraser University

Ezra Pound’s collected Cantos presents textual scholars with a challenge. Parts of the poem were published in little magazines, in newspapers, in fragments and in deluxe editions. No definitive edition of the Cantos exists, and the poem’s difficulty, though often figured as an interpretive difficulty, was just as much a textual difficulty. Just as the text of the poem itself is complex, so Pound’s own metaphors about the nature of print, textuality, and poetry are multifarious and shifting throughout the poem. This essay reads Pound’s own language of textuality and orality in the Cantos alongside his comments on modernist print culture in order to argue that Pound consistently tested the limits of material textuality even as he drew metaphorical power from the language of book history and print culture.

KEYWORDS: Book History, Print Culture, Textual Studies, Metaphor, Modernism, Orality, Ezra Pound

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