“I am all for the triangle”: The Geopolitical

Aesthetic of Pound’s Japan


Paul Stasi and Josephine Park, eds. Ezra Pound in The Present. Bloomsbury, 2016. 





For Pound, Japan represented not just a unique national culture, but also the living continuation of Chinese civilization, much as he considered a select few European nations of his time to represent the inheritors of a living European tradition. His long-term vision of Asia therefore needs to be understood not merely as including Japan along with China, but in terms of a Japanese mediation of China that was at once political and philological. This emphasis on Japan is meant not to tout its importance relative to China, but to achieve a more multidimensional picture of how Pound’s uses of East Asia related to his conception of tradition and modernity, nationalism and internationalism, particularity and universality –and, ultimately, the dreamed-of resolution of these oppositions in an aesthetic politics.

I approach this topic from three directions. First, by demonstrating Pound’s interest in and awareness of contemporary Japan by providing an overview of his numerous interactions with Japanese artists and writers. Second, by revisiting the significance of Pound’s use of the Noh as a model for “a long imagist or vorticist poem,” which I argue should be understood not simply as a narrowly formal model for adding complex temporal dimensions to the image, but also as a way to foreground the historical dimension of images, linking momentary perception to collective memory. Finally, I consider the place of Japan in Pound’s fascist-era vision of the world and its future, emphasizing his engagement with what might be called a mediated Orientalism with respect to China. 

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Christopher Bush is associate professor in the department of French at Northwestern University, where he also serves on the faculty of Comparative Literary Studies and Asian Studies, and co-directs two interdisciplinary initiatives: the Global Avant-garde and Modernist Studies graduate certificate and the French and the Global Humanities working group. His research focuses on comparative and interdisciplinary approaches to modernism and the historical avant-gardes. Publications include a translation and critical edition of Victor Segalen’s Stèles (Wesleyan, 2007), Ideographic Modernism: China, Writing, Media (Oxford, 2012), and, more recently, essays in A New Vocabulary for Global Modernism (Eric Hayot and Rebecca Walkowitz, eds., Columbia 2016) and Ezra Pound in the Present (Josephine Park and Paul Stasi, eds., Bloomsbury, 2016). He currently has two book projects under contract: The Floating World: Japoniste Aesthetics and Global Modernity (Columbia) and The Global Avant-garde (Bloomsbury) and is co-editor of the journal Modernism/modernity.


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