The Modernist Response to Chinese Art: Pound, Moore, Stevens (review)

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Abstract

For decades, scholars have posited the notion that American modernism has been influenced by Chinese thought and culture, yet this claim could be no more than speculation when it became clear that most if not all American modernists could not read or speak Chinese. Pound was, of course, the problematic case, because he was not totally ignorant of Chinese, having learned from Fenollosa's edition of the Japanese glosses of Mori Kainan and Ariga Nagao for his Cathay (1915), and having the instruction and guidance of the Korean sinologue, Achilles Fang, for his Confucian Odes (1959; copyright 1954). Doubts about this speculation can now be put to rest, with Qian [End Page 115] Zhaoming's meticulous and absorbing analysis in The Modernist Response to Chinese Art: Pound, Moore, and Stevens. Qian's work is an impressive achievement in both old-fashioned biographical criticism, and in new-fangled ekphrastic inter-arts analysis: he presents detailed biographical details in a deft and canny comparative exegesis. The result is fascinating, provocative, and cogent. His thesis is that, while Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, and Wallace Stevens may have been effectively ignorant of Chinese, they nevertheless absorbed a Chinese aesthetic by viewing and studying carefully the Chinese art that was on exhibit in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia in the early decades of the twentieth century. They supplemented these viewings with deeply responsive readings of such works as Samuel Beal's Buddhism in China (Stevens), Mai-mai Sze's The Tao of Painting (Moore), and James Legge's English and Séraphin Couvreur's French translations of the Shijing (Pound).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-119
JournalComparative Literature Studies
Volume45
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

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