A Poem Containing History

Textual Studies in The Cantos
Lawrence S. Rainey, Editor
A suggestive survey of new approaches to a twentieth-century classic


No poet of the twentieth century has aroused more controversy than Ezra Pound, and no work by him has seemed more important or more problematic than The Cantos. A Poem Containing History offers nine new essays that examine Pound's major poem from a historical and contextual perspective, in which the work's textual development is brought to center stage. The result is a significant reconsideration not just of Pound's achievement, but of modernist poetics and its relations with history.

The contributors, all major scholars, examine The Cantos from their beginnings in the late 1910s to their inconclusive ending with Pound's death in 1972. Together the essays reconstruct the many contexts in which Pound lived and wrote, and how these affected the evolution of his most important work. Several essays offer comprehensive surveys of the text's publication history, while most examine the development of particular groups of cantos that were produced in succeeding decades.

Repeatedly the essays show that Pound's poem was an unstable work in process, one that readily accommodated input from a variety of agents other than Pound himself, and one that may ultimately have escaped his control altogether.

This book will appeal to readers interested in modern poetry and twentieth-century history. All the essays are written in a style that is clear and free of jargon.

Lawrence S. Rainey is Associate Professor of English, Yale University.

Praise / Awards

  • "The specialists who contribute to [A Poem Containing History] cross-light The Cantos in richly diverse ways, ranging from an intensive reading of two problematic lines in the early Cantos, through exegesis, to coolly astute full-scope views. . . . This book is a superior starter work for students, new enthusiasts, and small libraries. For specialists it is a happy (and nourishing) gathering of some compatible colleagues in their best form."
  • "Written by some of the most respected scholars whose names have been connected with Pound studies, and displaying a good deal of self-consciousness about the act of interpretation as well as extensive archival research, these intriguing essays all imply or assume a way of reading that does indeed open up not only the individual text but the mind of the critic and even the discipline itself."
    --English Literature in Transition 1880-1920

Look Inside


1. Introduction (Lawrence S. Rainey)-1

2. Notes on Amateur Emendations (Hugh Kenner)-21

The Early Years
3. Pound's Cantos: A Poem Including Bibliography (Jerome McGann)-33
4. "All I Want You to Do Is to Follow the Orders"; History, Faith, and Fascism in the Early Cantos (Lawrence S. Rainey)-63

The Middle Years
5. An Epic Is a Hypertext Containing Poetry: Eleven New Cantos (31-41) by Ezra Pound (Tim Redman)-117
6. Visualizing History: Pound and the Chinese Cantos (Ira B. Nadel)-151

The Later Years
7. "Quiet, Not Scornful"? The Composition of the Pisan Cantos (Ronald Bush)-169
8. The interwoven Authority of a Drafts & Fragments Text (Peter Stoicheff)-213

9. The History and State of the Texts (Richard Taylor-235
10. Afterword: Ubi Cantos Ibi America (Mary de Rachewiltz)-267
11. A Statement from New Directions (New Directions Publishing Company)-275

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 288pp.
  • 29 B&W facsimiles.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1997
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10232-7

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  • $89.95 U.S.