The Cambridge Classical Journal

PRETENTIOUS SCANSION, FASCIST AESTHETICS, AND A FATHER-COMPLEX FOR JOYCE: E. E. CUMMINGS ON SAPPHICS AND EZRA POUND

J. Alison Rosenblitt 

New College, Oxford

Abstract

This paper considers a Sapphic poem written by E. E. Cummings: ‘the phonograph may(if it likes)be prophe’, which takes aim at Ezra Pound's relationship to the classical tradition and in particular at Pound's classicising use of quantitative metre. Cummings’ humourous but biting poem comments on Pound's literary ideas in the light of his fascist politics. Cummings’ poem constructs a layered discussion about ownership of the Classical tradition and about the privileging of the Classical aesthetic versus the English ear in English-language poetry. Thus Cummings offers both a critique of Pound and, implicitly, a literary argument concerning the role of the Classics in English verse.

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