The Mosaic Negative: Ahrt-Voik and Antisemitism in Ezra Pound's Work and Thought

Change log
Pinto, Chloe 

This thesis investigates the relationship between artwork and antisemitism in Ezra Pound’s work and thought, arguing that Pound’s anti-Jewish prejudice was inextricably entwined with his views on artwork and the socially conscious artist. My first chapter opens by examining Pound’s Vorticist writings, focusing on how his method of Luminous Details reworked typological and historiographic traditions positioning the figure of the Jew as the anti-type of Christ and the artist. I also foreground the representation of national categories and typographical articulations of racial types in Pound’s early poetry. My second chapter turns to Pound’s ideas of visual culture as filmic, Fascistic and ultimately antisemitic, taking his draft propaganda film script Le Fiamme Nere (1932) as an important insight into this development. By bringing the draft into dialogue with the poet’s Rome Radio broadcasts from 1941-1945, the extent of Pound’s commitment to naming the Jews as his cultural enemies across different propagandistic projects emerges. In my third chapter I explore the interplay between the ambiguous emergence of American identity and Pound’s antisemitism in the Middle Cantos, including Pound’s concerns over printed banknotes, Stamp Scrip and even volumes of his own poetry. Next comes a chapter on Canto 35, the most important insight into the complex Poundian relationship between Jewish artists and the production of ‘ahrt-voik[s]’ in The Cantos (35/174). The fifth chapter of my thesis details Pound’s relationship with the Jewish sculptor Heinz Henghes, using material drawn from archival resources and accounts of their time together in Rapallo from 1934-1936 and discusses the impact on Pound’s poetry. I conclude my thesis by unpicking the triangulation between Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Leo Frobenius and Italian Fascism following the Italian Race Laws of 1938 as expressed in Guide to Kulchur (1938) and the official Italian Fascist propaganda magazine La Difesa Della Razza. For Pound, the Jewish artist ultimately emerges as the ‘Mosaic negative’ of Mussolini-as-artifex, the enemy of culture and clear definitions.

Houen, Alex
Ezra Pound, Antisemitism, Artwork, Modernism, Visual Culture, Propaganda
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
AHRC (2105914)