Money and Modernity: Pound, Williams, and the Spirit of Jefferson

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Marsh locates Pound and Williams firmly in the Jeffersonian tradition and examines their epic poems as manifestations of a Jeffersonian ideology in modernist terms.

The modernist poets William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound were latter-day Jeffersonians whose politics and poetry were strongly marked by the populism of the late 19th century. They were sharply aware of the social contradictions of modernization and were committed to a highly politicized, often polemical poetry ...

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Money and Modernity: Pound, Williams, and the Spirit of Jefferson

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Overview



Marsh locates Pound and Williams firmly in the Jeffersonian tradition and examines their epic poems as manifestations of a Jeffersonian ideology in modernist terms.

The modernist poets William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound were latter-day Jeffersonians whose politics and poetry were strongly marked by the populism of the late 19th century. They were sharply aware of the social contradictions of modernization and were committed to a highly politicized, often polemical poetry that criticized finance capitalism and its institutions--notably banks--in the strongest terms.

Providing a history of the aesthetics of Jeffersonianism and its collision with modernism in the works of Pound and Williams, Alec Marsh traces "the money question" from the republican period through the 1940s. Marsh can thus read two modernist epics--Pound's Cantos and Williams's Paterson--as the poets hoped they would be read, as attempts to break the hold of "false" financial values on the American imagination.

Marsh argues that Pound's and Williams's similar Jeffersonian outlooks were the direct result of the political battles of the 1890s concerning the meaning of money. Although Pound's interest in money and economics is well known, few people are aware that both poets were active in the Social Credit monetary-reform movement of the 1930s and 1940s, a movement shown by Marsh to have direct links to Jeffersonianism via American populism.  Ultimately, the two poets took divergent paths, with Pound swerving toward Italian fascism (as exemplified in his Jefferson and/or Mussolini) and Williams becoming deeply influenced by the American pragmatism of John Dewey. Thus, Marsh concludes, Pound embraced the fascist version of state-capitalism whereas his old friend proclaimed a pragmatic openness to the new selves engendered by corporate capitalism.

Money and Modernity exemplifies the best of recent literary criticism in its incorporation of American studies and cultural studies approaches to bring new insight to modern masterworks.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"What I find most thrilling about Marsh's study is its rejection of traditional approaches to modernism as a purely aesthetic practice, together with its implicit assertion that modernist poetic strategies are responses to transformations in material culture. By addressing the Jeffersonian roots of the literary resistance to the authority of money, as well as the financial practices of centralized banks and the alternative recommendations of Social Credit adherents, Marsh presents cultural issues that are fundamental to our current rethinking of modernity and modernism."
—Bryce Conrad, Texas Tech University
Booknews
Marsh English, Muhlenberg College, Pennsylvania provides a history of the aesthetics of Jeffersonianism and its collision with Modernism in the works of poets Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, tracing their analyses of money from the republican period through the 1940s. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817356958
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Publication date: 9/23/2011
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Alec Marsh is Professor of English at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Introduction 1
1 Jeffersonian Economics: Debt and the Production of Value 11
2 Three Aspects of the Jeffersonian Political Aesthetic 42
3 The Virtues of Distribution: A Genealogy of Poundian Economics 68
4 Fertility Rites/Financial Rites: Pound, Williams, and the Political Economy of Sex 111
5 Poesis Versus Production: The Economic Defense of Poetry in the Age of Corporate Capitalism 139
6 Dewey, Williams, and the Pragmatic Poem 164
7 Overcoming Modernity: Representing the Corporation and the Promise of Pluralism 217
Notes 243
Bibliography 269
Index 281
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