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Ezra Pound's «Pisan Cantos» and the Noh


Ursula Shioji

When Ezra Pound wrote his Pisan Cantos during his imprisonment at the Disciplinary Training Center, Pisa, in 1945, he remembered the Japanese Noh plays which he had translated in the 1910s. The present study examines the Noh allusions in the Pisan Cantos. It analyzes their frequency and distribution in the poem and the formal characteristics of Pound's re-use of material and structural Noh elements. On the basis of these analyses, it documents the meaning-generating potential of the Noh elements in Pound's poem. The critical approach of this study is based on intertextual theories and the ideogrammic method, which Pound came to know at about the same time he was introduced to the Noh. Pound's concepts of the 'image', the 'vortex', and the 'Unifying Image' are also discussed. The study includes a survey of pertinent books and articles by American, British, German, and Japanese scholars on the role of Japanese haiku and the Noh in Pound's writings.
Contents: Pound and his relations with Japanese Noh - Survey of scholarly writings dealing with Pound's responses to Japanese stimuli - The Noh stratum in the Pisan Cantos: material intertextuality (names, quotations, themes, and images taken from the Noh) and structural intertextuality (the «Unifying Image» - the Pisan landscape as a Noh landscape).