Wednesday, September 5, 2007

I found some interesting information on a collaboration between T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound on "Wasteland".

Collaboration between T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound on Eliot's The Wasteland
One such example can be seen in Eliot and Pound's collaboration on The Wasteland. Their relationship is particularly useful in a study of twentieth century collaboration because the nature of the collaboration between the two great poets is clearly documented in the Eliot's extant manuscripts with Pound's scrawled markings and marginalia. It is also interesting as an example of an extensive collaboration that has tested the limits of the idea of Romantic authorship for many critics.
The details of the editorial changes made to The Wasteland are documented in a facsimile edition of the manuscripts published by Valarie Eliot. They are also summarized concisely by Jack Stillinger in his chapter on Pound's Waste Land. In short, Pound reduced the poem from over 1000 lines to its current 434. In the process, he focused and limited the poem's message and eliminated a sarcastic tone. The critical view, with only the exception of a handful of scholars, is that Pound's edited version is an undeniable improvement. Jack Stillinger concisely sums up the popular critical response:
The majority view is that the 434 lines of The Waste Land were lying hidden from the beginning in the 1000 lines of draft, rather in the manner of one of Michelangelo's slumbering figures were waiting to be rescued from the block of marble. But Michelangelo, in this analogy was both artist and reviser simultaneously. In the case of The Waste Land, it took one poetic genius to create those 434 lines in the first place, and another to get rid of the several hundred inferior lines surrounding and obscuring them ([Stillinger1991] 127-128).Eliot, who was mentally infirm and hospitalized during the period of writing and revision of the poem, acquiesced to almost all of Pound's revisions and suggestions ([Stillinger1991] 137). Stillinger brings attention not only the extent of Pound's changes but connects the collaboration to an argument that the resulting text constitutes a co-authored work.
There is additional evidence to support this claim. In the first release of the poem, Eliot dedicated the poem to Pound as "il miglior fabbro," an Italian phrase meaning "the greater craftsman." Through his life, Eliot was also upfront about the importance of Pound's additions to the work, describing, quite accurately, the way that Pound had "turned The Waste Land from a jumble of good and bad passages into a poem" ([Stillinger1991] 132). However, the manuscripts were not released by Eliot during his lifetime; they were released by Valarie Eliot, T. S. Eliot's widow, in 1971.
After their release, descriptions of the multiple authorship of The Waste Land, while supported in the textual evidence, faced fierce opposition from many critics and supporters of Eliot. Some critics, a number of whom had published major books on Eliot in the previous years, clung to their image of Eliot as a Romantic genius by making statements that attempted to minimize or trivialize Pound's contributions ([Stillinger1991] 132-134). Their arguments were simply unsupported by the textual evidence. It is impossible to deny that without Pound, The Wasteland would be an extremely different, and substantially less impressive poem.
While Eliot and Pound played different, unquantifiably important, and equally essential roles in the creation of the poem, Pound's role is, typically denigrated, at best, to the role of "an editor." Rather the describing the The Wasteland as a vibrant creative collaboration between two brilliant poets, critics substitute the image of Pound suggesting simple editorial changes to Eliot's poem. This unfortunate configuration is forged in the conceptions of authorship defined and sustained by an discourse of ownership: The Wasteland is Eliot's poem. While I am not confident that I understand exactly what Stillinger desires in his calls for "multiple authorship," I'm not sure that I agree that another name on the byline of The Wasteland is a particularly useful goal. That said, his critique is sound: there is a deficiency in a system of authorship and ownership that cannot acknowledge Pound for the important role he played in the creation of The Wasteland.

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