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MARK BYRON. Ezra Pound's Eriugena. London: Bloomsbury, 2014

 

“Pound’s encyclopaedic imperative […] led him to question intellectual orthodoxies, and to seek out and understand ideas and texts that ran counter to the received narratives of literary and cultural history. One prominent figure in Pound’s counter-tradition is the ninth-century Irish theologian, scholar and poet Johannes Scottus Eriugena. This figure came to prominence in the court of Charles the Bald, two generations after Charles’s grandfather, Charlemagne, had initiated the Carolingian Renaissance by establishing a new centre of learning at Aachen. 

Pound saw in Eriugena a strikingly original and courageous thinker, willing to endure ecclesiastical opprobrium in his pursuit of systematic theology, and an intellectually adventurous scholar who sought to advance Greek learning in Western Europe at a time of its near-eclipse. Pound was prescient in his support of Eriugena’s importance in intellectual history, made the more striking by the fact that it is only in recent decades that his contributions to theology, poetics and dialectics have received the scholarly attention they deserve. Eriugena served multiple intertwined functions for Pound: he was an intellectual sphinx, arising out of the desert wastes of early medieval thought as an alternative to scholastic narrow mindedness; his embroilment in various controversies demonstrated that he was prepared to stand for his beliefs counter to a bull-headed ecclesiastical hierarchy, and for which he earned the loyalty and protection of his royal patron; and in the composition of courtly poetry in Greek, Eriugena serves Pound as a model for his own cosmopolitan, polyglot, experimental poetics.” (M. Byron, Preface xv-xvi)


  

Byron

 

 

 

EZRA POUND'S ERIUGENA

 

 

 

 CONTENTS

 Introduction 1

1 Pound’s Eriugena: Neoplatonist and Heretic 15

2 John Scottus Eriugena: the Meeting of Athens and Rome in Gaul 51

3 The Missing Book of the Trilogy 113

4 The Poetics of Exile: Laon to Changsha 207

Appendices

A Francesco Fiorentino at Brunnenburg: An Annotated Transcription of Pound’s Reading in Eriugena 259

B YCAL MSS 53 Series II, Box 29 Folder 627 

Cantos LXXIV–LXXXIV, Typescript Drafts in Italian 267

Bibliography 270

Index of Works by Pound 288

Index of Works by Eriugena 289

General Index 290

 

 


 

Byron

 

 

Ezra Pound's Eriugena

review by Ron Bush, St. John's College Oxford.

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published in Make It New 1.4 (March 2015)

 

 

Let me begin (full disclosure) by confirming what I wrote when I was sent the proofs of Mark Byron’s Ezra Pound’s Eriugena toward providing a cover blurb: The book constitutes “a remarkable piece of scholarship that fills a crucial gap in Pound studies: why did Pound choose a now obscure ninth-century philosopher as the prospective basis for the Paradise section of The Cantos? Byron’s book addresses both the theoretical and the archival elements of the answer to that question with consummate intelligence and expertise, and like many of Pound’s best commentators exhibits as much insightfulness about the object of Pound’s curiosity as about Pound himself. I highly recommend it.”

Byron comes equipped for his job. An accomplished scholar of Pound and modernist textual practice, while a Cambridge Ph.D. student he sat in on the great medievalist Peter Dronke’s seminar on Eriugena’s Periphyseon, and he has since steadily expanded his grasp of medieval poetry and philosophy. All this is evident in his book’s second chapter, which focuses on “Eriugina’s intellectual and historical milieu, his patronage in the court of Charles the Bald, the controversies in which he was enlisted and implicated, and the means by which his work survived and was subsequently transmitted” (51).  Byron relays for his Poundian readers a sense of the “rapid gains” scholars have made in Eriugena scholarship over the last generation (52), a token of which inheres in the complicated story (19) of how the accepted English spelling of the philosopher’s name came to change late in Pound’s career from Erigena to Eriugena. More to the point he establishes fascinating affinities between the material nature of Eriugena’s texts and Pound’s “interlinguistic puns and comedic set-pieces” (82), his “use of ideograms, epistolary