Celestial Tradition, The: A Study of Ezra Pound's The Cantos

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Despite the painstaking work of Pound scholars, the mythos of The Cantos has yet to be properly understood — primarily because until now its occult sources have not been examined sufficiently. Drawing upon archival as well as recently published material, this study traces Pound’s intimate engagement with specific occultists (W. B. Yeats, Allen Upward, Alfred Orage, and G. R. S. Mead) and their ideas. The author argues that speculative occultism was a major factor in the evolution of Pound’s extraordinary ...

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The Celestial Tradition: A Study of Ezra Pound's The Cantos

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Overview

Despite the painstaking work of Pound scholars, the mythos of The Cantos has yet to be properly understood — primarily because until now its occult sources have not been examined sufficiently. Drawing upon archival as well as recently published material, this study traces Pound’s intimate engagement with specific occultists (W. B. Yeats, Allen Upward, Alfred Orage, and G. R. S. Mead) and their ideas. The author argues that speculative occultism was a major factor in the evolution of Pound’s extraordinary aesthetic and religious sensibility, much noticed in Pound criticism.

The discussion falls into two sections. The first section details Pound’s interest in particular occult movements. It describes the tradition of Hellenistic occultism from Eleusis to the present, and establishes that Pound’s contact with the occult began at least as early as his undergraduate years and that he came to London already primed on the occult. Many of his London acquaintances were unquestionably occultists.

The second section outlines a tripartite schema for The Cantos (katabasis/dromena/epopteia) which, in turn, is applied to the poem. It is argued here that The Cantos is structured on the model of a initiation rather than a journey, and that the poem does not so much describe an initiation rite as enact one for the reader.

In exploring and attempting to understand Pounds’ occultism and its implications to his [Pounds’] oeuvre, Tryphonopoulos sheds new light upon one of the great works of modern Western literature.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780889202023
  • Publisher: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
  • Publication date: 5/25/1992
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Demetres P. Tryphonopoulos teaches American literature at the University of New Brunswick. His current projects include an edition of Ezra Pound’s letters to Olivia Rossetti Agresti as well as a collection of essays on modernism and the occult.

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations
Preface
I The Cantos as Palingenesis
1 The Cantos as Palingenesis 1
2 Poetry as Revelation 9
3 "The Celestial Tradition" 11
Notes 18
II The Occult Tradition
1 "The Rising Psychic Tide" 23
2 A History of the "Occult Tradition" 28
Notes 54
III Pound's Occult Education
1 American Beginnings: Katherine Ruth Heyman and H.D. 59
2 Pound's Catechesis in London (1): Yeats and the Shakespears 69
3 Pound's Catechesis in London (2): Upward and Orage 74
4 "Echoes from the Gnosis": G.R.S. Mead and Pound 82
Notes 92
IV Palingenesis: Katabasis / Dromena / Epopteia
1 Palingenesis: Katabasis / Dromena / Epopteia 101
2 "The Cave of Nerea": Canto 17 108
3 "Never with this Religion / Will You Make Men of the Greeks": Canto 23 127
4 "Yet Must Thou Sail after knowledge": The Katabasis after Gnosis in Canto 47 142
Notes 152
V "The Subtle Body": Cantos 90 and 91
1 "Out of Erebus": Canto 90 159
2 "The Subtle Body": Canto 91 169
Notes 184
Appendix I 189
Appendix II 192
Works Cited and Consulted 193
Index 207
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