Italian fascist exhibitions and Ezra Pound's move to the imperial.
The shift in Pound's thinking about the function of poetry and criticism is visible in his writing about literature and in his critical methods. In "Ubicumque Lingua Romana," written in 1937 though not published until 1939, Pound contends that if he were "asked to organize a sindicato of men of my own profession ... Among other things I shd/ treat literature as communications service, not as the quantitative production of merchandise" (45). In a letter to C. H. Douglas also written in 1937, Pound asserts, "The masterworks or the best of its time is like orders from the STAFF, from the high command" (Papers 18 Nov. ). These related claims that poets, like other propaganda artists, work in the service of a regime, passing on a leader's ideas to the masses, shock readers of Pound's London poetry and criticism, accustomed to his sense in 1915 that "it is the artist's job to express what is 'true for himself,'" and that "the man who tries to express his age, instead of expressing himself, is doomed to destruction" (Gaudier-Brzeska 102). This change in Pound's thinking from 1915 to 1937 occurs not merely on the level of content--his shifting view of the role of the artist from offering self-expression to purveying propaganda--but also on the level of rhetoric: his employment of terms like "sindicato," "communications service," "orders from the STAFF, from the high command." Such a transformation bespeaks the extent to which Pound had absorbed the fascist imperialist discourse surrounding him.
His change in critical methods demonstrates a similar adoption of fascist techniques. Many of his works preceding Mussolini's declaration of empire in 1936--works as early as The Spirit of Romance (1910) and as late as ABC of Reading (1934)--rely on an exhibitionary method, in which he lays out texts for readers to explore: he wants his readers to access the materials through which he comes to his conclusions. In other words, they enact what Steven Conn in the context of museum history calls an "object-based epistemology," the belief popular in the late nineteenth century that original objects can speak, representing the entire culture from which they come (4). Pound translates this notion into his criticism by asserting that criticism is not a viable substitute for first-hand reading and critical thinking. He famously comments in "How to Read, or Why" (1929), that "I have been accused of wishing to provide a 'portable substitute for the British Museum,' which I would do, like a shot, were it possible. It isn't" (Literary Essays 16).
Guide to Kulchur asserts, on the other hand, that such a substitute is not only possible but preferable. In a letter to Frank Morley of Faber and Faber in London written during the book's inception, Pound calls the book "Wot Ez knows, or a substitute (portable) fer the Bruitish museum" (Papers [Feb. 1937]). This dramatic reversal exemplifies Pound's new imagining of culture, and it mirrors the contemporaneous shift in fascist propaganda: instead of gesturing to the complexity of culture and teaching a reader how to approach it, he gives a digest and insists on an interpretation.
The prompting of Guide to Kulchur came in February 1937 from Morley, who proposed that Pound produce a "seeryus & good sized home university library for the seeryus aspiring & highminded youth," a book that would function as "litry education for the aspirant with all the excavations you wish blowing up what it is the academics do instead of their job" (Pound Papers 11 Feb. 1937). Morley sensed a great market for such a popular textbook, but while he suggested that Pound could include "all the excavations you wish"--a reference to Pound's tendency to dig up pieces of the past to offer to readers--Pound's book took its own direction. The outline he sent Morley looked quite like the outline that would come to summarize the Guide's contents. He imagined the book with three parts: method (based on Confucius's Analects), philosophy (a history of thought), and history (a history of action). A week and a day after his initial letter to Pound proposing the guide, Morley wrote again, worried that the public would not take a "guide to kulchur" seriously--but his initial suggestion stuck. Imagining himself as a propagandist, Pound turned to the propaganda methods of Mussolini's regime.
Pound wrote Guide to Kulchur quickly in March and April 1937, during the height of fascist-sponsored cultural production in Italy. He had made a permanent residence in Italy in 1924, settling with his wife in Rapallo. By 1931 he was interested in fascism, admiring Mussolini's ideal of a corporate state, his Italo-centric vision of culture, his archaeological work, and his patronage of living artists. (1) At this time he also started using the fascist dating system, which called 28 October 1922, the date of Mussolini's March on Rome, its originary moment. (2) Such a point of origination no doubt appealed to Pound in part because he already saw 1922 as the birth year of modernism, thanks to the publication of Eliot's The Waste Land and Joyce's Ulysses. In 1932, the decennial of the March on Rome, Rome's Palazzo delle Esposizioni housed the well-attended Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista (Exhibition of the Fascist Revolution). The exhibition depicted the history of the fascist movement, combining the talents of historians and avant-garde artists to create a spectacle that Pound and others thought both innovative and effective in its presentation of history.
Pound was well aware of the imperialist ambitions and achievements of Mussolini's government. In October 1935 Mussolini invaded Ethiopia, part of the Abyssinian Empire, thereby solidifying his drive for a militaristic empire and inviting hostility from the League of Nations. On 9 May 1936 Italy took Addis Ababa, and Vittorio Emmanuele III was declared emperor. Ezra Pound saved in his personal papers a copy of Il Popolo d'Italia from 10 May, with its banner front-page headline, "The Duce Announces to Italy and the World the Constitution of the Fascist Empire," and numerous articles, including the text of Mussolini's declaration, titled "Italy Finally Has Its Empire." (3) In September 1937, several months after Pound had written Guide to Kulchur, the Mostra Augustea della Romanita opened in Rome's Palazzo delle Esposizioni, celebrating the bimillennium of the birth of the Emperor Augustus and drawing specific and general connections between the Augustan era and Mussolini's Rome. (4) Guide to Kulchur, published in 1938, was written and published in the historical context of these fascist attempts to shape Italian and world culture through imperial expansion and state-supported artistic production.
Pound's idea of culture grew primarily from his favorite economist C. H. Douglas, whose notion of "cultural heritage" Pound summarized thus in 1934:
The source of value is the cultural heritage; that is, the whole aggregate of mechanical inventions, their correlations and possible correlations, the improvement of seed and farming methods, and the customs and habits of civilization (subject to some selection and horse-sense, but, at any rate, treated as a potential and as a level of demand and perception). (Poetry and Prose [P & P] 6: 185)
The paradox that people might need a guide to this habitual culture demonstrates that Pound's culture includes both ordinary habits and a more Arnoldian vision of the best that has been thought and said.
Part of the appeal of this sense of culture derived from its centrality to the nationalist vision of Mussolini's Italy. In the New York Herald in 1934, Pound asserted that whereas many modern leaders ignore their nations' rich pasts in addressing modern economic problems, Mussolini does not: "Mussolini has taken his rank as the First European by a solid refusal to sabotage the cultural heritage ..." (P & P 6: 207). Indeed, Mussolini relied on this notion of "cultural heritage" as an important tool for social change. (5) The fascist regime used a series of mass exhibitions to communicate its vision, celebrating wide-ranging aspects of Italian culture: aeronautics, children's camps, the history leading up to the March on Rome, technical institutions, even the problems with using the pronoun lei for formal address. (6) As Ruth Ben-Ghiat has argued, many Italian intellectuals saw the advent of a dictatorship as a chance to build a unified Italian culture, feeling that a lack of national identity had left Italy vulnerable to cultural colonization by other nations (7).
Italy for Pound represented a microcosm of all culture: if reconciling the myriad pieces of Italian culture was a challenge, then how might one collect all the parts of 2500 years of world culture? Pound rejected a "great man" approach, as culture must be something shared, not personalized. When Frank Morley asked in June to add to Guide to Kulchur the subtitle "The Book of Ezro," Pound declined, saying "it is TOO pussnl." (7) Pound's vision of culture followed the fascist conception of totalitarian culture, where no single element is valued over the whole. Fascism explicitly repudiated the bourgeois individualism that it associated with liberalism. The Doctrine of Fascism (1932), signed by Mussolini but written in part by Giovanni Gentile, asserts:
Anti-individualistic, the fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only insofar as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal will of man as a historic entity. (10). (8)
Despite his earlier tendencies, Pound would no longer celebrate individuals who stand too far apart from their culture. For example, the Tempio Malatesta, commissioned by Sigismundo Malatesta, is in Guide to Kulchur both an "apex of what one man has embodied in the last 1000 years of the occident" and a "monumental failure," for while Sigismundo "registered a state of mind, of sensibility, of all-roundedness and awareness," he did it "against the current of power" (159). As a result, it cannot truly be considered part of its culture. And whereas most of Beethoven's music and even his own Cantos are "records of personal struggle"--particular to the person who composed them and requiring a fair amount of effort to understand or appreciate--other works, such as Pietro Lombardo's carvings of mermaids in Santa Maria dei Miracoli (Venice), belong to the domain of culture. About such works Pound writes, "the perception of a whole age, of a whole congeries and sequence of causes, went into an assemblage of detail, whereof it wd. be impossible to speak in terms of magnitude" (136). They grow not out of the work of an individual genius but a confluence of forces. Pound wanted, in other words, to move away from art as a private, personal practice toward art as public property: art must benefit an entire state, an entire population, in order to enter the realm of culture. Although he admired such great men as Mussolini, he wanted to distribute that greatness more widely. In fascist exhibitions, he found methods for communicating his ideals to the masses.
Pound found the cultural nationalism of Mussolini's Italy compelling because it shared his emphasis on monuments of greatness and because its methods could advance his own purposes. The Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista opened in Rome's Palazzo delle Esposizioni on 29 October 1932. It was the first of many exhibitions put on by Mussolini's regime that employed avant-garde artists in the communication service of the regime. Displayed objects--newspaper clippings, letters, flags, and bloody shirts--were integrated into the monumental and dynamic structures devised for display. Its innovative exhibition practices constructed history as a product of the collaboration of artifacts, artistic intervention, and visitor investment. As Jeffrey Schnapp summarizes,
It narrated the history of Fascism from 1914 through 1922, not according to the conventional methods of museum display, but rather via a kaleidoscopic fusion of Rationalist architectural schemes, a Futurist-inspired aesthetic of collage and photomontage, and an emergent mythico-heroic architectural Classicism. ("Fascism's Museum" 88-89). (9)
The exhibition was wildly successful, drawing 3.8 million visitors over two years (Andreotti, "Art and Politics" 214), among them Ezra Pound, who appreciated its ability to teach history, stimulate visitor investment, and define nationalist culture.
Pound visited the Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista in late December 1932, shortly after it opened. To keep the fascist revolution vibrant, its designers chose temporary over permanent display. The catalogue clarifies the exhibition's difference from museums: "This Exhibition does not have the arid, neutral, alienating quality that museums usually do. Instead, it appeals to fantasy, excites the imagination, restores the spirit" (Partito Nazionale Fascista 9). (10) The futurists' distrust of museums--the sense that they, like libraries, represented an overvaluation of the past and a tendency to entomb art and ideas--had entered fascist thinking and encouraged cultural administrators to look for alternatives to museums. (11) Furthermore, by employing prominent avant-garde artists, the regime solidified its commitment to revolution and change. Visitors were to be not passive observers but active participants in the experience of history--and thus party to the project of fascist Italy. Valuing its subjectivity, the Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista emphasized its solicitation of artifacts from those who had participated in the early days of fascism. Pound commented in 1933 that the history told there was one told by Italians themselves, not by foreigners (P & P 6: 9). (12) The participatory exhibition appealed to Pound's pedagogical spirit, and his sense that by actively engaging readers he could make them better thinkers. As late as March 1937, when he was writing Guide to Kulchur, Pound would still be thinking about the nationalist and fascist iconography of the Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista (P & P 7: 144-45).
Pound wrote in 1933 that the exhibition conveyed the importance of action (P & P 6:9). As the catalogue asserts:
The Exhibition of the Fascist Revolution, prepared--by the will of the Duce and the work of the Party--as a celebration of the Decennial, does not intend to be or to signify an end or a truce in the daily toil of the Regime; instead, it intends to be a most complex and effective manifestation of will and strength. (Partito 7) (13)
In thinking about the role of Mussolini in this exhibition, Pound seems to be remembering Mario Sironi's "Salone d'Onore," which reproduced Mussolini's office at Il Popolo d'Italia as part of a monumental tribute to the Duce (Andreotti, "Art and Politics" 166). In Canto XLVI (published in 1936), Pound recollects this reconstruction:
That office? Didja see the Decennio? ? Decennio exposition, reconstructed office of Il Popolo (P & P 7: 28)
He still appreciates the ability of the exhibition to convey a sense of the fascist revolution, but by this point he cares more about the image of Mussolini than the dynamic presentation of political and social change.
As the 1930s went on, Pound became more invested in the rhetoric and iconography of Italy as a finished state, visible in the Mostra Augustea della Romanita (Exhibition of Augustus and Romanness). It opened in Rome's Palazzo delle Esposizioni on 23 September 1937, celebrating the bimillennium of the birth of Augustus. The exhibition's facade transformed that building's front into a faux stone triumphal arch (Ghirardo 70-71), resonating with the triumphal arches in Rome's Forum, and the military victories they celebrated. While the exhibition celebrated Augustus and his Roman empire, it everywhere honored Mussolini's Rome as well: Mussolini's triumph, the facade tells us, is his returning Italy to the splendor of the Rome of the Pax Augustea, through his cultural and economic programs at home and his imperial successes abroad. Atop the four podiums that covered the facade's columns stood four casts, two each of two colossal Roman statues of barbarian prisoners, the originals of which stand in the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Capitoline in Rome (Mostra Augustea 3). Those figures combined with a cast of a Victory found at Metz to emphasize the imperial quality of Mussolini's triumph. To each side of this triumphal arch were wide swathes of faux stone walls decorated with inscriptions from such Latin writers as Livy, Cicero, Pliny, and St. Augustine, translated into modern Italian, or with a stone-carved "DVX" repeated four times on each side above these passages, its V for U according with the use of the Latin dux in place of the more common Duce as a reference to Mussolini.
Casts of ancient sculptures dominated the exhibition. Utilizing casts rather than originals meant that the organizers could bring together far more works than could be gathered in their original form. The current locations of the originals--Ankara, Bucarest, Provence, and Vienna as well as Florence and of course Rome itself, to name only the works that stood in the two Rooms of the Empire--testified to the broad scope of the Roman Empire and of Mussolini's ambitions. The objects themselves mattered less than the image of Rome they assembled and the geographical space they represented.
Like Pound's sense of cultural heritage, the exhibition joined high cultural elements with common life. Some exhibits focused on the Roman Empire itself, its origins, its history preceding Augustus, the later stages of the empire's history and self-defense, and the rise of Christianity. Several rooms centered on Augustus and the monuments associated with him. And while the exhibition celebrated the range of architectural projects of Rome, it made explicit space for ancient Roman daily life--industry, religion, schools and youth organizations, family life, arts and letters, libraries, agriculture, medicine, economic life, and games. The organizers' definition of culture, then, was far wider than Arnold's "the best which has been thought and said."
Augustus's relevance to the fascist present was most explicit in the final room, "The Immortality of the Idea of Rome: The Rebirth of the Empire in Fascist Italy" (Mostra Augustea illustration 74). The catalogue explains that the current regime has revived the idea of Rome after a period of dormancy:
The imperial Roman idea was not extinguished with the fall of the Western Empire. It lived in the heart of the generations, and the great spirits testify to its existence. It endured the mysticism throughout the Middle Ages, and because of it Italy had the Renaissance and then the Risorgimento. From Rome, restored capital of the united Fatherland, colonial expansion was initiated and achieved the glory of the Vittorio Veneto with the destruction of the empire that had opposed the unification of Italy. With Fascism, by the will of the Duce, every ideal, every institution, every Roman work returns to shine in the new Italy, and after the soldiers' epic enterprise in the African land, the Roman Empire rises again on the ruins of a barbaric empire. Such a miraculous event is represented in the speech of the great, from Dante to Mussolini, and in the documentation of so many events and works of Roman greatness. (Mostra Augustea 434) (14)
This explicit linking of Mussolini and Augustus permeated the Mostra Augustea, as the Augustan era had become a useful past to glorify. (15) The arrangement of the room clarified its interpretation: around the curved walls appear block-letter inscriptions from Mussolini. Images connect ancient and modern works. For instance, the catalogue parallels an obelisk and a stele brought back as symbols of imperial conquest. Titled "Romanness and Fascism," the two pictures are explained by this caption:
On the left: Obelisk formerly in the Circus Maximus (now in the Piazza del Popolo) brought to Rome by Augustus and commemorating the Roman conquest of Egypt--On the right: Obelisk [stele] of Axum, brought to Rome to commemorate the Italian conquest of Ethiopia. (Mostra Augustea illustration 75). (16)
As the Egyptian obelisk represented the glories of Egypt, conquered by Rome, so did the Ethopian stele represent Axum, the ancient and powerful capital of Ethiopia, conquered by Mussolini. (17) Whereas the Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista might have asked visitors to interpret these two images, this exhibition told visitors that the ancient objects justify Mussolini's imperial project.
Similarly, although Pound's earlier writings about imperial Rome emphasize its decadence, those of the late 1930s follow a wider fascist valorization of that ancient empire. (18) His earlier comments present Rome as a pale imitation of Greek greatness: an article of 1922 comments that "Athens had a civilization, Rome had an empire, and the greatest virtue of that empire was to act as a carrier for Athenian civilization" (Visual Arts 171). On the other hand, an article published in May 1937 in the Globe (St. Paul, Minnesota) sees Rome more favorably. Pound addresses discussion of a United States of Europe and suggests that there are more important trends in the European situation. He says, "there is an older dream based on perceptions and instincts far more vigorous than rough analogy with the U.S. Constitution and the Articles of Confederation." That dream is Italy's renewed Roman Empire, but it is not "merely Italian":
The watchful reader should not fall into the error of supposing this dream [of a renewed empire] to be purely, or merely, Italian. The Roman Empire civilized the occident as we know it. The IDEAL was so solid that it persisted in Constantinople for centuries. It persisted in German Europe, in the very terminology of the Rulers. It was an ideal of ORDER, not of bunk, not of humanitarian illogicality but of a POSSIBLE ORDER functioning amid very perfect human beings without any calculation being made on their sudden and/or total amelioration before next Saturday fortnight. Obviously no man will be able to THINK the revival of the Roman Empire clearly unless he have some fairly clear and articulate idea of what the old Roman Empire was and how it came into being. (P & P 7: 191)
Gone is Pound's concern about Rome's decadence or its tendency to produce empty copies of copies of artworks (Gaudier-Brzeska 106, 110). Like the writers of the catalogue for the Mostra Augustea, he asserts the continuity of the Roman ideal through centuries in which it seemed to slumber. His description of this continuity comes in the context of the dream of a new Rome, much as the Mostra Augustea justifies Mussolini's new empire. He explains Rome's successes--and the reasons for a Roman sense of order--in the economic terms that had become his structure for understanding the history of ideas, civilizations, and art:
Dr. Walton [Brooks] McDaniel [professor of Latin at the University of Pennsylvania] writes to me, "Few people realize what a disease usury was in the (Roman) Republican period." My own hypothesis is that the Roman Empire became possible when the Greek (maritime) usury system gave way to the more moderate agrarian usury of the Romans. (P & P 7: 191-92). (19)
In other words, Rome's true glories came with the empire--beginning with the reign of Augustus and continuing through Constantine and Justinian--and they were facilitated by economic shifts. Lest a reader of the Globe miss Pound's correlation between the future of Europe and the greatness of ancient Rome, the article is printed with a large Roman-style triumphal arch above the text and the article's title--"EVROPE--MCMXXXVI"--chiseled across its attic face. The iconography of Mussolini's imperial aspirations frames Pound's ideas.
Although Pound does not seem to have visited the Mostra Augustea, he was aware of it and encountered its ideology and iconography on such mundane objects as postage stamps. While fascist Italian stamps had long used the Italian past to represent the present culture and government, the imagery shifted after Mussolini's declaration of empire. The Roman past, which appeared only occasionally in the early 1930s, became dominant by 1937, as the regime embraced its imperial symbolism. (20) The stamps commemorating the bimillennium of Augustus's birth use the imagery developed during his reign to consolidate his power as emperor. For instance, those celebrating Augustus's power on the seas depict the gilded Columna Rostrata Augusti, placed in the Roman Forum to celebrate Augustus's return to Rome after defeating Sextus Pompey in 36 BC. (21) Such use of booty to represent victory accords with the statues of barbarian captives affixed to the facade of the Mostra Augustea. The airmail stamps marking this bimillennium use details from specific Augustan monuments with significance to modern Italy--for instance, a detail from the Ara Pacis in Rome, the Altar of the Roman Peace, which marked Augustus's consolidation of Roman authority throughout the empire. Pound himself linked the Ara Pacis with the Mostra Augustea: in a letter to Olga Rudge of October 1938, he wondered whether the exhibition had closed (it had not), and called the Ara Pacis "the grand finale" (Papers 7 Oct. 1938). (22) One stamp reproduces the entire Ara Pacis, and another shows a detail of a relief depicting a procession of the imperial family, including three children. The stamp represents the prosperity of the Romans and likely celebrates Augustus's social legislation designed to encourage upper-class Romans to procreate (Zanker 156-59). The Ara Pacis, not seen for more than a thousand years but discovered in parts beginning in the sixteenth century, was completely excavated in 1937-38 (Kostof 303-04). The fascist government ordered that the pieces scattered among museums in Italy be returned to Rome for the reconstruction of the monument. (23) The very presence of the reliefs testified to Mussolini's power in restoring the past glories of Rome (Stone, "Flexible Rome"). As common objects used by ordinary people, these stamps, like the Augustan coins that combine an image of his head on one side with a monument to his victories on the other, communicated the image of the regime to people who might not visit the exhibition in Rome. Ezra Pound, in his correspondence from late 1937 and early 1938, used these stamps.
Pound's sense of modern Italian culture similarly shifted to emphasize the drive for empire. In an article of July 1936, he wrote in the Rapallo newspaper about the donation of a Stradivarius violin from Rapallo to Rome. Whereas many Rapallans were saddened by the loss of the violin, Pound read this donation as a demonstration of small towns' contributions to the imperial project. Using the rhetoric of empire, he argues:
Now that the Empire exists, we must consider the relationship between center, periphery, and minor nuclei of the State. An Empire needs a Center in which the intelligence and the strength of the race are concentrated, but from which in turn the light of its civilization spreads across and penetrates the lesser nuclei. This diffusion depends not only on the undefined will of the lesser cities but also on their sensibility and perception. It is not enough to be sensitive to the passive reception of benefits alone; it is necessary to show ourselves ready to seize the opportunity for constructive work. (Pound and Music 393)
Still speaking of a return to Roman order, he traces the movement of ideas in an imperial context:
The New Order will spread from Rome in ways neither understood nor dreamed of, in ways foreseen only by a few people who have an "ardent imagination," and it will spread not only "geographically" in space, but will also grow in depth of development and concept.
His plan for lesser cities follows the regime's vision for a new Roman empire. As Ruth Ben-Ghiat has shown, the fascist notion of the nation as an organic entity derived both from liberal-era ideas about national development and from the nationalist movement's approach to imagining state goals (17-18). As early as 1923, in an essay titled "The Italian Empire," F.T. Marinetti used analogies to the human body to imagine that an "Italian empire, because our slender peninsula--elegant backbone with a hard head of heavy and domineering Alps, epitome of all the beauties of the earth and bursting with creative genius--has the right to govern the world" (qtd. in Schnapp, Primer 277). And in 1928, Margherita Sarfatti, an early proponent of a new Italian empire with Rome as its heart, said that Benito Mussolini "is making Italy aware of its unity and moral greatness through her capital's architectural unity and material greatness" (qtd. in Schnapp, Primer 251). She acknowledged that such "centralization imposes painful sacrifices, defacements, and decapitations on the other cities of the 'Italic folk endowed with many lives.' But these are necessary and fruitful." Pound agrees: lesser cites are not rivals of Rome, but rather part of its organic whole:
In the magnificent body of the Fascist state no one is excluded, but everyone must function according to his abilities, according to his imagination and perception.... Rome's power did not cease with the fall of the Empire of the Caesars, it was not the creation of Julius alone, its order was perpetuated in the action of Antonius, Constantine, and Justinian, and later with the canon law of the Middle Ages. (Pound and Music 393)
His organic image of the empire rests on fascism's corporate state, and his image of this body-state grows from the idea of empire in ancient Rome: ancient cultural heritage enables modern success.
Pound's description, like the imperialist propaganda of the time, replaces the reality of colonized bodies with a classicizing image of a Roman body of state. As Ben-Ghiat has shown, "the slaughter in Ethiopia," which
combined old-fashioned savageries (decapitations, castrations, and burning and razing of civilian quarters) with industrial killing methods (aerial gas bombings and efficient open-grave executions) that are more commonly associated with Hitler and Stalin's soldiers than with Mussolini's rank and file [...] was so out of keeping with Italians' self-perception as the more "humane" dictatorship that it has been edited out of popular and official memory. Until 1995, the Italian government, and former combatants such as Indro Montanelli, denied the use of gas in East Africa. (126)
But this denial of the reality of colonized others is hardly limited to Italy's colonial conquests, as Fredric Jameson has suggested. Instead, it is part of a larger "strategy of representational containment" characteristic of this period of imperial literature. He suggests that during the period from the late nineteenth century through the Second World War or so, the "radical otherness of colonized, non-Western peoples" is systematically made invisible in favor of "others" rooted in other imperial nation-states (48-50).
Indeed, Guide to Kulchur follows this trend. Although Pound's Guide demonstrates a pervasive concern with empires (Roman, Macedonian, British), noting their rises and falls and what they offer civilization, its discussion is deeply rooted in the metropolis. His writing about the condition of the British empire may be shaped partly by the fact that by this time, Mussolini's commentary on Britain had soured, emphasizing its limitations rather than strengths. (24) Pound's analysis follows suit: he comments in Guide to Kulchur that
Never in all my 12 years in Gomorrah on Thames did I find any Englishman who knew anything, save those who had come back from the edges of Empire where the effect of the central decay was showing, where the strain of the great lies and rascalities were beginning to tell. (228)
And even in such passages where he makes reference to the colonial situation at "the edges of Empire," it is a returning Englishman whose opinion he repeats. In so representing the British Empire, he is replacing the colonized other with what Jameson calls the "Imperial type," the Englishman who has benefited from the imperial conquest and whose views stand in for the reality of the colonial situation (57-58). At the same time, Pound's sense that the empire's condition is more visible at its peripheries than in its metropolis reflects the complexity of his own geographical position, in remote Rapallo rather than urban Rome, engaged nonetheless in the cultural work of the empire. That so much of Pound's thinking about empire comes in a chapter of the Guide titled "Losses" indicates his anxiety that falls of empires bring a loss of culture: the Italian empire, by extension, must thrive so that its cultural programming educates those who need it. To counteract loss of cultural heritage--not in Italy, where work is already underway to recover it, but in the United States and Britain, where people have not understood this loss--he uses fascist methods to bring his vision of culture to a decadent populace.
Pound's purpose in Guide to Kulchur is to counteract the overwhelming cultural ignorance of "the man in the street in England and the U.S.A. 1938" (Guide 26). Even the book's jacket design acknowledges the way that Pound represents himself as the pinnacle of culture by pedestalizing a profile image of him made by Gaudier-Brzeska to represent "Wot Ez knows." The color of the jacket design echoes the color symbolism that dominated the facade and interior of the Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista. Libero Andreotti describes the facade, designed by Adalberto Libera and Mario De Renzi:
The design was simple in the extreme: a red square block, symbolizing the blood of the martyrs, flanked by two lower wings in gray, with four giant fasci standing several meters from the wall and connected by a horizontal slab supporting the letters MOSTRA DELLA RIVOLUZIONE FASCISTA. ("Aesthetics of War" 78)
Pound himself comments about the importance of the symbolism of the fascio in "Intellectual Money" (1937), demonstrating that his understanding of the fascist state is still dominated by his experience of that exhibition in 1932:
There are not six men in England who have the faintest shadow of an adumbration of an approach to an idea of the terminology now current in Italy in discussion of the different elements that were bound together in the FASCIO, or bundle, in and before 1922, Nineteen twenty two. A great and superstitious horde attacks a vague residue of tendencies inherent in the velleity of the early Italian nazionalisti and which, if untempered and uncombined in the "bundle," would have died dead in reaction. There are not 40 men in England who have taken thoughtful note of the decoration which hung over the stairs in the Decennio exposition five years ago: Blue, Black and Red mingled together. (P & P 7: 144-45)
Pound's writings from throughout this period emphasize the importance of curiosity to cultural growth. "There can be no doubt that the Renaissance was born of wide-awake curiosity," he wrote in 1937 (P & P 7: 266). The Guide laments, however, the general lack of curiosity in American and English thought. (25) Its principal technique, therefore, is the stimulation of readers' curiosity. The first chapter draws from Confucius to discuss the "six becloudings," where each action--which might seem good in itself--becomes beclouded when conducted without "the love of learning." The love of learning must accompany all other acts. (26)
By stimulating readers' curiosity, Pound believed he could bring them to culture. Culture, to the totalitarian mind, produces understanding. Pound, therefore, wants to create a "total man" whose understanding permits him to converse with the greatest philosophers (Guide 47). The new learning would focus on where ideas "weigh in"--where they matter (44). This integrated sense of knowledge and appreciation would lead to a greater understanding of such important issues as economics: "the one thing you shd. not do is to suppose that when something is wrong with the arts, it is wrong with the arts ONLY" (60). Being able to understand art and culture--to recognize quality, to distinguish works of one period from works of another--is not merely about connoisseurship or asserting highbrow standing. It can rectify larger social problems. "I suggest that finer and future critics of art will be able to tell from the quality of a painting the degree of tolerance or intolerance of usury extant in the age and milieu that produced it" (27). Those critics, like Pound's intended audience, could thereby contribute to the projects imagined when Mussolini addressed the need for a new cultural heritage: by knowing their past they could build a brighter future.
From his long-held focus on creating new works of art--art which he now emphasizes must be an integrated part of a larger totality rather than isolated in museums--Pound extends his sense of cultural heritage to the creation of good government. "When the vortices of power and the vortices of culture coincide, you have an era of brilliance," he says in Guide to Kulchur (266). Early in the book he lays out a parable of good government, showing that clear terminology is crucial to that realm. He translates Confucius's idea that "If the terminology be not exact, if it fit not the thing, the governmental instructions will not be explicit, if the instructions aren't clear and the names don't fit, you can not conduct business properly" (16). Reading is no mere contemplative act, but one with a purpose: "Properly, we shd. read for power. Man reading shd. be man intensely alive" (55). That power is not merely personal, but civic. In Jefferson and/or Mussolini he makes in Arnoldian terms the claim that "A good government is one that operates according to the best that is known and thought. And the best government is that which translates the best thought most speedily into action" (91). (27) He also addresses being ruled without being exploited:
"The art," says my venerable colleague once Vorticist W. Lewis, "of being ruled"! The art of not being exploited begins with "Ch'ing Ming"! and persists invictis, uncrushable on into Gourmont's Dissociation d'idees. If the affable reader (or delegate to an international economic conference from the U.S. of A.) cannot distinguish between his armchair and a bailiff's order, permitting the bailiff to sequestrate that armchair, life will offer him two alternatives: to be exploited or to be the more or less pampered pimp of exploiters until it becomes his turn to be bled. (Guide 244)
The very aspects of culture that Pound has been celebrating appear here as remedies against exploitation. Italian nationalists and intellectuals had recognized since the time of the Risorgimento that Italy's lack of a coherent national identity had made it vulnerable to conquest by other nations. (28) Similarly Pound wants the United States to be strong, to resist the exploitation of other states. He shows time and again his esteem for the constitutional basis of the United States, even if that nation had recently declined: "The specific lesson (1938) might be to recognize the U.S. Constitution as an innovation, and to hesitate for a very long time before scrapping it in favour of expedients and experiments oft tried and oft proved ineffective" (Guide 275). At the same time that he thinks about those governing, however, he wants his imagined "man in the street" to be able to resist similar exploitation on a more local level. Culture is as essential to good citizens as to good leaders.
Pound's premise is that tidbits of culture, rather than swathes of text, best pique readers' curiosity. He relies, therefore, more on the remembered gists of works than on the works themselves. "In the main, I am to write this new Vade Mecum without opening other volumes," he tells his reader, "I am to put down so far as possible only what has resisted the erosion of time, and forgetfulness" (Guide 33). (29) As Michael North has noted, knowledge that has become part of a person's being need not be looked up: it resists forgetting (147). In determining that he does not need the "original" works themselves, Pound rejects also his older method of letting quoted text speak for itself. Such earlier works as The Spirit of Romance or Guido Cavalcanti Rime show off the results of his vast research in archives. By the time he was writing the Guide, however, he was dubious of how the act of archival digging can be privileged over the significance of its results: "Naturally there is nothing duller than the results of such digging, UNLESS the searcher have some concept to work to. Not the document but the significance of the document" (220-21). In Guide to Kulchur, Pound's value judgments speak without archival evidence, and the pieces to which he gestures matter less than the whole he creates.
By valuing the newly created whole over its pieces, Pound made the same choice as the designers of the Mostra Augustea, who used casts and models to represent the fascist interpretation of Augustus's empire. For this reason, the Mostra Augustea communicated not despite the use of casts but because of them: whereas an assembly of so many authentic pieces might distract the public, absorbing them in seeing "the real thing," an assembly of casts allows a more sweeping look, taking in the regime's whole image of the ancient Roman empire. Pound, too, blends the works to which he refers into culture. For instance, when he sets out his distinction between culture and records of personal struggle (as discussed above) he talks about Pietro Lombardo's carvings of mermaids at Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Venice. This church's carved exterior includes stone decoration and paneling in a variety of colored marble, and its interior contains beautiful stone inlay, carved banisters, figures of saints, and pilasters with intricate reliefs. In such a setting, these reliefs--forming the bases of two pilasters--could easily pass unnoticed, a testament to the integration into the whole of which they are a small part. As such, they are important examples for Pound. These same carvings are mentioned in an earlier review of Adrian Stokes's The Quattro Cento (1932), where they feature in a story about the inadequacy of criticism when faced with works of remarkable beauty:
The Quattrocento abounded in partial works, time and again a bas relief contains one or two figures illuminated by the artist's contact with the deeps, and beside these figures are others that are nothing but a recollection or botch or some Greco-roman porcheria. The highest highbrow will do no better than the old custode in Santa Maria dei Miracoli saying, "There it is. For four centuries they have been trying and they cannot get anything as good as these mermaids." (P & P 5: 375)
Pound suggests that not everything is of equal aesthetic value. The critic's job is to help a less knowledgeable looker find the beautiful thing. (30) The custode's pointing tells interested onlookers that there is beauty to be seen and asks them to work to see it. (31) This anecdote recurs in Guide to Kulchur, but abbreviated to such a degree that only a reader already familiar with it would understand:
The old guardian at Sta Maria dei Miracoli says of the carving "It just seems that nobody has been able since ..." That refers to a culture. (136; Pound's ellipsis)
This story has become an impenetrable stand-in for his new sense of culture. It leads up to the chapter's definition of culture--"the perception of a whole age, of a whole congeries and sequence of causes" (136). Yet as a story that teaches, it fails because not enough of the story is given to show its point. By so drastically abbreviating the story, Pound precludes his reader's coming to the same conclusion as he does--or not. Instead, readers must rely on his definition, where he tells rather than shows what culture is. Although in giving his readers an example of a meaningful cluster of statues he may be trying to emulate the way the Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista brought visitors into the work of history, his tendency to abbreviate mimics the Mostra Augustea, less inviting his reader to learn with him than simply passing on what he believes.
In the same way that the individual sculptures copied in the Mostra Augustea pale when compared with the ideological message of the entire exhibition, or the individual places that compose the new Italian Empire matter less than an organic whole, individual paraphrased ideas are overwhelmed by the larger image of culture in Pound's Guide. Whereas in earlier periods Pound was willing to showcase individual "luminous details"--small pieces that somehow speak to larger trends--or to celebrate the works of isolated geniuses, by this time his thinking was far more totalitarian, examining constantly the relations among the various elements of a culture.
One exhibit in the Mostra Augustea gives a visual model for such an approach. The exhibition included a specially commissioned model (scale 1:250) reconstructing imperial Rome at the time of Constantine, the moment of its greatest extension. Based on the work of Rodolfo Lanciani but including more recent excavations executed during the fascist period, the model's scale allows a viewer to understand imperial Rome more comprehensively than visits to individual monuments around the city permit (Mostra Augustea 726). (32) Unencumbered by the architecture of more recent centuries, the model gives a holistic--dare I say totalitarian--view of Rome as Mussolini's government wanted to remember it. As Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi has shown, the fascist view of ancient Rome was selective, highlighting such aspects as its superior power. Excavations were conducted "in search of the ruins of 'its' Rome," and usually involved destruction of newly discovered medieval buildings "in order to let ancient Rome predominate as the original witness of fascism's glorious destiny (93). (33)
Similarly, Pound repeatedly advocates the clearing away of unnecessary material that occludes the real culture. He asserts, "culture (damned word if there ever was one) ought NOT to be a blighted haystack of knowledge so heavy it crushes or smothers" (Guide 183). Pound thereby links himself to Mussolini's archaeological projects. In Jefferson and/or Mussolini, he discusses an Italian awakening that he sees in process, part of which relies on these archaeological restorations:
From Sicily up to Ascoli, from one end of the boot to the other, the blobby and clumsy stucco is pried loose from the columns; the pure lines of the Romanesque are dug out, the old ineradicable Italian skill shows in the anonymous craftsmen. Three whole columns, six fragments, a couple of capitals are scratched out of a rotten wall and within a few months the graceful chiostro is there again as it had been in the time of Federigo Secondo. (84-85)
Italy, Pound claims, is sensibly clearing out sediment that has beclouded its cultural heritage, and he cheers Mussolini for bringing what lies beneath to light. What Pound was seeing here were visible traces of the larger emphasis on bonifica, or reclamation, in fascist concepts of modernity. As Ben-Ghiat has shown, this term referred not only to such concrete manifestations as the conversion of swampland into arable soil but also to more abstract attempts at human reclamation and cultural reclamation, and even, by 1938 or so, to the anti-Jewish laws (4). If the image of Isis rejoining the divided limbs of Osiris represents Pound's earlier sense of himself as a cultural leader, then this image of Mussolini clearing away the accumulated burden of intervening time to access the cultural heritage of Italy represents Pound's newer vision of cultural work. In Guide to Kulchur, he expresses this ability to see in a fascinating mix of metaphors: "We may know that whole beams and ropes of real history have been shelved, over-clouded and buried" (30). (34) This clearing away involves the elimination of "dead catalogues" once understanding is achieved. He uses a metaphor from bookkeeping to explain how education should work: "The loose leaf system is applied in effective business. Old accounts, accounts of deceased and departed customers formerly blocked the pages of ledgers" (56). So, too, should students of culture excise old accounts from their cultural ledgers, incorporating living ideas but disposing of dead ones. Other nations, he implies through his carefully chosen terminology, need to learn from the Duce's example. England ("a mere bog or clog in the world's sub-sewer" ) or the United States (a "mind-swamp," where "swamp = mud plus stagnant water" ) need to do some clearing out of their own terrain, much as Mussolini cleared Italian swamps, or Pound was clearing a way for culture.
Coupled with this clearing away is the building of a new cultural heritage so that culture does not stagnate. Speaking again of Confucius, he writes, "The dominant element in the sign for learning in the love of learning chapter is a mortar. That is, the knowledge must be ground into a fine powder" (21). As mortar, culture cements new construction, and again Mussolini is the model. The fascist state emulated ancient Roman building: Mussolini made this parallel clear in his famous comment of May 1922, "Fascism constructs its ideal and material edifices in the Roman way, stone by stone, and like the Roman ones, they will challenge time" (qtd. in Braun 103). (35) As Emily Braun has shown, Italian artists were given the role of master builders under the fascist regime, using edifying myths to articulate a sense of romanita for a classless society (103). Pound similarly aspired to build a new future from a usable past.
To this end, he emphasizes useful knowledge--the aspect of culture that allows a person to get something new done. Useful knowledge is not about "load[ing] up your memory with the chronological sequence of what has happened, or the names of protagonists, or authors of books, or generals and leading political spouters," he suggests, but rather about "understand[ing] the processes biological, social, economic now going on" (Guide 51). This difference between a memorized list and a sense of process is the difference between knowledge and understanding. Understanding those processes, being able to embrace "ideas going into action" is what gives one a sense of culture, as "the history of culture is the history of ideas going into action" (44).
Finding a way to bring these ideas into action dominates Pound's thinking about culture. By 1937, he had rejected art that is made only for exhibition, preferring "art made for USE--that is painting to have painted into the plaster and stay while one lives there" and "music for who can play it and distinct from music made for the least common, and most vulgar, denominator of the herd in the largest possible hall" (Pound and Music 399). Following the futurists' belief that museums are cemeteries, Pound wanted art integrated into the public sphere, not sequestered in designated exhibition spaces. (36) Good art is usable art, art that accomplishes something. Similarly, as Marla Stone has demonstrated, the Mostra Augustea's purpose was "recruiting the past for the present" ("Flexible Rome" 215). When one possesses useful knowledge and is connected to one's culture, then one can engage successfully with new texts, experiences, and statal needs. "When one knows enough one can find wisdom in the Four Classics," Pound says about the cryptic declarations of Confucius. "When one does not know enough one's eye passes over the page without seeing it" (Guide 17).
The problem for Pound is that the West has made its vast cultural heritage inaccessible. As if revisiting his own tendency to rely on the archive as the storehouse of knowledge, Pound sets his realization of this problem in the British Museum Library's Round Reading Room (London), where he had spent two decades making modernism (Paul 65-139):
About thirty years ago, seated on one of the very hard, very slippery, thoroughly uncomfortable chairs of the British Museum main reading room, with a pile of large books at my right hand and pile of somewhat smaller ones at my left hand, I lifted my eyes to the tiers of volumes and false doors covered with imitation bookbacks which surround that focus of learning. Calculating the eye-strain and the number of pages per day that a man could read, with deduction for say at least 5% of one man's time for reflection, I decided against it. There must be some other way for a human being to make use of that vast cultural heritage. (Guide 53-54)
What he prefers now is the more fascist, corporate model, where all contribute to the cultural work of empire. It is not enough for the elect to have access to this vast repository. Instead he wants to make the cultural heritage widely available. Presenting a "totalitarian" sense of culture--one that makes sense of the whole rather than the pieces--is no easy task. As David Spurr has shown, asserting one's authority over something--whether it be a colonized people or a writer's subject matter--always involves the incompleteness of one's authority, and "colonial discourse bears this constant uncertainty ... leading to a simultaneous avowal and disavowal of its own authority" (7). Fredric Jameson expresses this difficulty, as it manifests itself to the metropolitan subject, in economic terms:
colonialism means that a significant structural segment of the economic system as a whole is now located elsewhere, beyond the metropolis, outside the daily life and existential experience of the home country, in colonies over the water whose own life experience and life world--very different from that of the imperial power--remain unknown and unimaginable for the subjects of imperial power, whatever social class they may belong to. (50-51)
This situation creates a "spatial disjunction" with the resulting "inability to grasp the way the system functions as a whole."
Pound's inability to achieve synthesis reveals itself in the inconsistency of his approaches. At one point he wants to guide his reader to the important tidbits from the last 2500 years, to "provide the average reader with a few tools for dealing with the heteroclite mass of undigested information hurled at him daily and monthly and set to entangle his feet in volumes of reference" (Guide 23). At another, he tries to take his accumulated knowledge and "reduce it all to one principle" (15). These different desires make a reader wonder whether culture is heteroclite or unified. His objection to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics lies in its lack of uniform argument or quality: "It is heteroclite, a hodge-podge of astute comment and utter bosh" (308). He recognizes, however, that he too might be accused of this tendency: "Let the reader be patient," he protests, "I am not being merely incoherent. I haven't 'lost my thread' in the sense that I haven't just dropped one thread to pick up another of a different shade. I need more than one string for a fabric" (29). He uses various metaphors to express his desire for a larger structure on which to hang individual pieces of culture: "a bracket for one kind of ideas, I mean that will hold a whole set of ideas and keep them apart from another set" (29), a "card-index" or "set of cubby holes whereinto one can sort one's values and make them into a schema" (305), or "some sort of provisory scaffold, hat-rack or something to work from" (260). He wants to emphasize "the new synthesis, the totalitarian" (95), but it seems he has set for himself an impossible task.
The cultural tool on which Pound ultimately settles for conveying the totality of culture is poetry, an artform that, to Pound, seems to solve the problem of how to make sense of modernity's--and especially colonial modernity's--heteroclite pieces. As if in resistance to Jameson's insistence that colonialism creates "an inability to grasp the way the system functions as a whole," Pound offers poetry as a totalitarian synthesis. Poetry can contain the vastness of an artist's culture and offer aesthetic pleasure to pique a reader's curiosity. It can carry a powerful message, like the propaganda art for which Pound argued in "Ubicumque Lingua Romana" and his letter to C. H. Douglass. Pound acknowledges that he was neither the first nor the greatest person to think so: "The Duce and Kung fu Tseu equally perceive that their people need poetry; that prose is NOT education but the outer courts of the same. Beyond its doors are the mysteries" (Guide 144-45). Unlike prose critique, poetry makes from the cultural heritage a new work, a new whole. Whereas prose writers may tend to organize different pieces of that heritage into categories and thereby hinder knowledge by separating them, poets, and even playwrights writing in verse, are more totalitarian in their approach: "Shakespeare gets TO the far orientals because he does not shut his meaning into egg-shells" (165). Because of the integrated artistic structure that he creates, Shakespeare can reach even those who do not necessarily make sense of the world through the same systems of order. For Pound, the greatness of Thomas Hardy's poetry shows why poetry can be so powerful: "No man can read Hardy's poems collected but that his own life, and forgotten moments of it, will come back to him, a flash here and an hour there. Have you a better test of true poetry?" (286). But poetry also draws out those forgotten parts of the larger cultural past that can allow the creation of great new things. "Man gittin' Kulchur had better try poetry first," he suggests, because "poetry is totalitarian in any confrontation with prose. There is MORE in and on two pages of poetry than in or on ten pages of any prose save the few books that rise above classification as anything save exceptions" (121). The concision of poetry, its formal organized qualities, and its powerful imagery and language make it the right means of acculturation. But much as the fascist excavations in Rome cleared away any artifacts hindering a vision of Rome as a coherent, imaginable whole--defined by the fascist regime--the poetry to which Pound would guide his reader is but a stand-in for any real understanding of all the pieces of his puzzle.
In other words, poetry's totalitarian synthesis only works if writer and reader can agree on their shared subject matter. While poetry does allow for a reader to consider the assertions of a speaker and come to a different conclusion, it does not allow the reader to reframe the discussion, to bring in different examples, or to turn the shared focus elsewhere. No poem can incorporate all experiences and things, and its formal shape occludes the existence of those elements outside it--those things that in Jameson's terminology "remain unknown and unimaginable for the subjects of imperial power." In creating a new whole for the reader, a poet gives a reader no chance to create his or her own new whole. And when poetry comes to act as a communications service for a regime, then a reader-citizen's role in shaping the community, state, and government is diminished, or even nullified. A reader of this totalitarian poetry must accept the word of the poet at face value. As the example of the Santa Maria dei Miracoli mermaids shows, Pound too easily settled on the solution of clearing away extraneous matter. Just as Mussolini destroyed distinct specimens of medieval buildings because they were not a part of his vision of ancient Rome, Pound whittled away too much of the cultural heritage. Like a visitor to the Mostra Augustea, a reader of totalitarian verse finds the significance and implications of a literary text specified in advance. Pound began his work for Guide to Kulchur with aims of involving his reader in the project of discovering and comprehending culture--much as the organizers of the Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista wanted active visitors. Then he concluded by making a work that readers cannot dispute without already understanding all the culture to which Pound claims to be guiding them. Even though his textbook is not verse, it enacts the same discursive maneuvers that totalitarian poetry might. The Guide looks like the vision of Augustan culture interpreted by the Mostra Augustea della Romanita.
While Pound believed in making communicative art that could transform readers into more engaged citizens, his adoption of the rhetoric and iconography of Mussolini's regime meant that his model for acculturation turned away from the active pedagogy of the Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascita and toward the shouting pedagogy of the Mostra Augustea. Guide to Kulchur gives readers Pound's sense of culture as a totality, one that--despite his claims to the contrary--tells readers how to interpret it rather than teaching them to participate in it. And because his Guide is immersed in Italian imperialist rhetoric, it embodies the limitations of the colonialist system, as Jameson has explained. Although Pound seems to believe that his model for acculturation looks like that of the Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista, where history is at first confusing but then enlightening, and where visitors are given the tools to be part of that history, he has instead built a 1:2500 scale model of culture, presenting fragments that exclude rather than invite, that rely on the cult of personality of its builder.
Research for this work was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities; Clemson University's College of Architecture, Arts, and Humanities; and the Southern Regional Education Board. I am indebted to the useful remarks of the participants of the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar "The Topographies of Collecting" held at the American Academy in Rome in summer 2001 and to those of the "Literature and Visual Culture" seminar during the Modernist Studies Association New Modernisms 3 Conference in Houston, Texas. Barbara Zaczak helped me refine my translations from Italian. I also thank my student assistants, Emily Benthall, Jennifer Lightweis, and Kristin Puscas.
1. On the state's role in art patronage under Mussolini, see Stone, The Patron State. For an instance of the regime's archaeological work, see Kostof. For a more extensive description of Pound's meeting with Mussolini and his continued correspondence with him, see Wilhelm 70-142.
2. Critics do not agree about the reasons for Pound's interest in fascism. Contrast, for example, Wilhelm's assertion that Pound discovered fascism in 1932 (64-68) with Rainey's belief that Pound's interest in Mussolini is already visible by the early 1920s in the Malatesta Cantos (101-03).
3. These articles appear on page 1 ("Il duce annunzia all'Italia ed al mondo la costituzione dell'impero fascista") and page 4 ("L'Italia ha finalmente il suo impero") respectively of Il Popolo d'Italia, 10 May 1936. Pound's copy is preserved in the Pound Papers. The title of Mussolini's speech became a widely used imperialist slogan, appearing for instance in the mosaic work of the Foro Mussolini, now renamed the Foro Italico (Rome).
4. On the images of Romanness that this exhibition presented for Italian citizens, see Stone, "A Flexible Rome."
5. "We must not remain solely contemplatives," Mussolini said to the students of the Academy of Fine Arts in Perugia and then published in the Popolo d'Italia in early October 1926. "We must not simply exploit our cultural heritage. We must create a new heritage to place alongside that of antiquity. We must create a new art, an art of our times: a Fascist art" (trans. and qtd. in Schnapp and Spackman 235).
6. On the Mostra Anti-lei planned by Achille Starace in 1939 and the cultural context for banning the use of lei for formal address, see Falasca-Zamponi 106-09.
7. Papers, 2 July . Morley's request came in a letter of 30 June 1937.
8. On the original preparation of The Doctrine of Fascism for the 1932 edition of the Enciclopedia Italiana and its separate publication and foreign translation, see Berezin 58.
9. For more about the exhibition, see Andreotti, "Aesthetics of War"; Ghirardo; McLaren; and Schnapp, "Epic Demonstrations."
10. My translation of "Ed e percio che questa Mostra non ha l'aspetto arido, neutro, estraneo che hanno di solito i musei. Essa invece si rivolge alla fantasia, eccita l'immaginazione, ricrea lo spirito."
11. See, for instance, F.T. Marinetti's "Manifesto del Futurismo" (1909):
Musei: cimiteri!... Identici, veramente, per la sinistra promiscuita di tanti corpi che non si conoscono. Musei: dormitori pubblici in cui si riposa per sempre accanto ad esseri odiati o ignoti! Musei: assurdi macelli di pittori e di scultori che vanno truciandosi ferocemente a colpi di colori e di linee, lungo le pareti contese! (11)
On the importance of the futurist influence on early fascist thinking about culture, see Stone, Patron State 19.
12. My translation of Pound's Italian: "Non spetta al forestiero d'insegnare la storia italiana." Pound's comment follows the ideology of the process used to collect the artifacts for the exhibition. Marla Stone describes it:
As an outgrowth of the decision to present the exhibition as national work-in-progress, the Mostra's directorate announced a nationwide call for artifacts and objects to be put in the displays. While the open collection policy may have been bureaucratically unwieldy, its ideological utility was unmistakable; it allowed the organizers to present the Mostra as a "people's" depiction of its own history. (Patron State 137)
13. My translation of
La Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista, allestita--per volonta del Duce e per opera del Partito--a celebrazione del Decennale, non intende essere o significare una sosta od una tregua nella quotidiana fatica del Regime; vuole e intende essere, invece, una manifestazione, la piu complessa ed efficace, di volonta e di forza.
14. My translation of
L'idea imperiale romana non si estinse con la caduta dell'Impero d'Occidente. Visse nel cuore delle generazioni e i grandi spiriti ne testimoniano l'esistenza; perduro mistica durante tutto il Medioevo, per essa l'Italia ebbe il Rinascimento e quindi il Risorgimento. Da Roma, ritornata capitale della Patria unita, si inizio l'espansione coloniale, e si raggiunse la gloria di Vittorio Veneto con la distruzione dell'Impero che piu aveva avversato l'unita dell'Italia.--Col Fascismo, per volere del Duce, ogni ideale, ogni istituzione, ogni opera romana ritorna a splendere nell'Italia nuova, e dopo l'epica impresa dei combattenti in terra africana, sulle rovine di un impero barbarico risorge l'Impero di Roma. Tale mirabile vicenda e rappresentata nelle parole dei grandi, da Dante a Mussolini, e nella documentazione di tanti avvenimenti e opere di romana grandezza.
15. As Cipriano Efisio Oppo had argued in 1927 in the Critica Fascista debate about a fascist art, Rome was hardly an untapped source of iconography for rulers. Its imagery was borrowed even by Napoleon, no hero of Italians (Schnapp and Spackman 265). On Napoleon's deployment of Augustan imagery to empower himself as a Roman emperor, and for a deconstruction of the myth of Napoleon, see Huet. Nineteenth-century Italian nationalists, struggling toward independence, had used Rome's republican past to justify their image of the new Italy in contrast to the church-centered Rome that the Catholic Church had celebrated for centuries. And although a more imperial romanita came to the fore during Italy's campaigns in Libya during 1911-12, the intensity of the propaganda of that time pales by comparison with that of Mussolini's imperial Italy in the late 1930s (Wyke 189-92).
16. My translation of
A sinistra: Obelisco gia nel Circo Massimo (ora a Piazza del Popolo), portato a Roma da Augusto e commemorante la conquista romana dell'Egitto--A destra: Obelisco di Axum, portato a Roma per commemorare la conquista italiana dell'Etiopia.
17. On the history, form, and significance of the stele, which was brought to Rome and erected in the Circus Maximus in October 1937, see "Stele di Axum." Italy's right to keep it has long been disputed, but as of this writing, it still has not been returned. For a summary of the dispute see Lorenzi.
18. Pound's earlier view of Rome might best be summarized by this comparison between the Roman empire and the late Italian renaissance:
And in the midst of these awakenings Italy went to rot, destroyed by rhetoric, destroyed by the periodic sentence and by the flowing paragraph, as the Roman Empire had been destroyed before her. For when words cease to cling close to things, kingdoms fall, empires wane and diminish. Rome went because it was no longer the fashion to hit the nail on the head. They desired orators. And, curiously enough, in the mid-Renaissance, rhetoric and floridity were drawn out of the very Greek and Latin revival that had freed the world from mediaevalism and Aquinas. (Gaudier-Brzeska 113-14).
19. Pound makes a similar assertion in P & P 7: 308-13.
20. On the larger history of Italian stamps, see Zeri, who discusses the ideology of the Horace bimillennium stamps together with those issued to honor Virgil (1930), Augustus (1937), and Titus Livy (1941) in the context of the regime's larger interest in Rome.
21. The only surviving Roman representations of this column can be seen on the reverse of Roman coins from the Augustan period, which show a statue of Augustus atop the column. They also show prows and anchors of ships around its sides: the assembled ship parts become a trophy of victory, much like the assembled arms and armor represented on the stamp marking Augustus's victories on land. Zanker notes that the use of ship prows continued well into the imperial period in Rome (81-85).
22. Olga and Mary Rudge were on their way to Rome, and Pound seems to have been wondering whether Olga could take Mary to see the Mostra Augustea. The exhibition closed on 5 November 1938.
23. Mostra Augustea della Romanita: Catalogo 105. For details about the reconstruction--the museums where the pieces had been kept and how long it took for them to come back together--see Kostof 304. Such foreign museums as the Louvre, of course, did not hand over fragments.
24. For instance, on 17 January 1937, Mussolini published in Il Popolo d'Italia an article entitled "Declino," in which he analyzes the population statistics for Great Britain, showing that from 1901 to 1931 that nation's population had aged, with a great decline in the population of children. By 1970, he suggests, Great Britain would have about 30 million inhabitants, all very old. He concludes sarcastically, "Brillante prospettiva per l'impero britannico!" (Opera Omnia 28: 106-07). Similarly, in "Il Canale di Suez," published in Il Popolo d'Italia on 14 January 1937, Mussolini attacks the intelligence of the British people (Opera Omnia 28: 102-03). Such discussion would persist beyond the time during which Pound wrote Guide to Kulchur: in "'Siamo Noi Decadenti?'" (Il Popolo d'Italia 16 June 1937) Mussolini addresses the decadence of the British population (Opera Omnia 28: 198).
25. See, for instance, his comment in the British-Italian Bulletin that "For ten years England has had no curiosity as to Italian internal affairs. For six months England has had a positive determination to learn NOTHING of Italy's internal affairs" (P & P 7:20). About a month later he remarks in the same publication, "Whatever motives save greed on the one hand, and blind sentimentality on the other, may have worked in Geneva, there is no responsible American who has ever had the faintest curiosity about anything but oil, potash, and gun sales" (P & P 7: 23).
26. A common rhetorical gesture in Guide to Kulchur is an explicit reference to his reader's curiosity: "If a man have sufficient curiosity to look for a basis in fact ..." (Guide 24) or "Can I direct the reader's curiosity by prodding him ..." (25). Such prodding, he suggests, is the work of the critic: "It is the critic's BUSINESS adescare to lure the reader," he notes, and soon adds, "He is not there to satiate" (161). Providing his readers with fishing line and lures instead of fish is a way to ensure not only that they will follow his advice but also that they will promulgate his sense of culture beyond the works he mentions, thereby deepening their own indoctrination.
27. In the "Government" chapter of Guide to Kulchur he makes a similar assertion in slightly different language: "The best government is (naturally?) that which draws the best of the nation's intelligence into use" (242).
28. Doumanis has suggested that Italian leaders invested in Italy's independence from Austria and France recognized that the cultural divisions within the Italian peninsula made resistance to foreign domination difficult. As a result, a coherent sense of Italian culture, complete with linguistic uniformity, a history of a glorious Risorgimento, as well as the artistic and intellectual past of the Renaissance and Roman Empire, were crucial to Italy's remaining together in the uncertain years following the consolidation of the nation.
29. As is often the case with Pound's long works, he is not entirely successful in following the method he outlines for himself. Indeed he does quote text, including all of Gaudier's "Vortex" (Guide 63-70), writings by Katue Kitasono concerning the relation between imagery and ideoplasty (137-39), and passages from ancient Roman texts concerning the abuses of usury (269-70).
30. Pound expresses that notion explicitly earlier in the review, when he celebrates the book's plates, saying, "I don't honestly know whether the 'reader' can learn more from Stokes' printed text than he can from that illustration" (P & P 5:375).
31. This aspect of aesthetic criticism remains an issue for him in Guide to Kulchur, where he addresses Dante's "undiscussable Paradiso," saying, "There is nothing in modern critical mechanism to deal with, and I doubt if there is anything handy in our poetic vocabulary even to translate, the matter of this and the following Cantos" (292). Reflecting on his entire undertaking, he later says "I cannot state my beliefs about art more succinctly than I have done by naming particular works and makers" (347).
32. The model is displayed today in the Museo della Civilta Romana, Rome.
33. For images of the architectural and archaeological projects undertaken in Rome by the fascist regime--and of the demolition that came with these projects--see Insolera.
34. Pound does not reserve such thinking for history, and in fact such assertions appear throughout Guide to Kulchur in numerous contexts. For instance, he makes a similar observation about how a poor performance of a musical piece can make "the best qualities of concerti disappear; or at least so much of the fine carving is blunted that one's rage outweighs one's pleasure" (251).
35. For a couple of instances of the way that actual fascist era building projects emulated those of ancient Rome, see Aicher and MacDonald.
36. Pound had long believed that art should be integrated into architectural creation. For an early and clear statement of the importance of employing artists in the decorating of buildings, see his "Paris Letter, December 1922" in Visual Arts 172-75.
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