Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The New Freewoman, November 1 1913

The first article in this issue is an absolute gem. Editor(s? Marsden?) explains that the arts are approaching the condition of science, but are still stuck "in the position of the alchemists and astrologers." She goes on to reference the latest issue of Poetry and Drama which is apparently devoted to Futurism. I went over to beloved magmods.wordpress.com to dig up the issue, and there 'twas, so I'm going to do a special report on it--stay tuned.

But back to TNF. The upshot of the first article is (and this is still true?) that artists who fall too far on either extreme of the traditional-experimental continuum tend to fall into errors. There's a nice defense of poesie: "In poetry self-consciousness culminates: in it alone emotion rounds on itself, articulate, and says 'I know you'" (183).

In Ireland, the workers have been cheated into an unfair settlement and James Larkin has been thrown in jail. TNF's characteristic response is that the workers of Dublin should have armed themselves. They link the crisis to the mining disaster (see above post) in Wales. The journal is really hard on miners, claiming that they "slither" into their occupation because they aren't able to find decent work. There's a resonant anti-coal screed: "Coal is not wanted, certainly it was not needed. Its advent has done an inordinate amount of harm and only made possible a highly speculative good. Its filth and grime has been splotched form one end of the earth to the other--its progress has had squalor and misery as chosen attendants" (184). This moves into, oddly, a ridicule of the Pankhursts and their hunger strike, as further examples of self-proclaimed victims (the others being the miners and the unarmed Irish).

Pound contributes a short essay continuing his critical relationship with Rabindranath Tagore. He's not backing down from his wholehearted support of Tagore despite the attacks on both of them in The New Age. I noticed how much he emphasizes that Tagore should be read as an artist and not as a religious figure--which may be in part a counterargument to The New Age's labeling him as a quack mystic. Also important is Pound's further establishment of his critical method, which is firmly based in quotation: "It is always better to quote Mr. Tagore than review him. It is always much more convincing. Even when I tried to lecture about him I had to give it up and read from the then proofs of Gitanjali" (187). Pound's penchant for using the text as the only sufficient evidence makes the split in his critical personality even more clear: the prescriptiveness of "A Few Don'ts" is seeming more and more an outlier. At the end, he quotes Dante to illustrate his love of Tagore, a difficult move for me to follow and perhaps a premonition of cantos to come.

Allen Upward (Upwards in the contents of the issue, whoops) contributes an essay on Confucius, aka Kung the Master. It is very proto-Pound, and makes me wonder when Pound starts getting real traction in his study of Chinese. This could be a foundational text, as Upward's Confucius seems a lot like later-Pound's.

Speaking of EP, he continues his series on "A Serious Artist" in this issue, including previsions of Hugh Selwyn Mauberly in its quotations of Villon and general preoccupation with aging and poetic vitalitiy, and also elaborations on his ideas of poetic dynamism. Good interesting insight.

That's all well and Poundian, but the unexpected piece is Bolton Hall's short story "Graveyard Fruit," about a vegetarian who has a vision of every creature and human being he has ever wronged, including incidentally. Intense, a strong comment on the hidden horror of existence and the difficulty of doing right in the world. Teachable for modernist anxiety?

Edgar Mowrer has a fun piece heralding the important invention of a phonograph that can play records backwards, which leads him to criticize futurism and explain why post impressionism is a dead end. Naturally all this happens because playing records backwards will require composers to become more disciplined, as they will be held responsible for both directions.

Finally, and ending a remarkable issue, Huntley Carter contributes a piece on Vision and the environment, pretty much explaining that vision comes from within, and is destroyed by contact with the environment. He bases this on the strengths and shortcomings of Gordon Craig's Towards a New Theatre, especially on its illustrative plates. On a quick skim, it looks terrifically cool. Carter, though, is a little out-there for me (he'd agree, I think), and it just goes further to show how the visionary/mystical/occult side of modernism can exist comfortably next to the aesthetic/scientific/materialist side, even when the discussion is about the inherent contradiction between them. Or something.

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