Two Cultures, Two Avant-gardes Compared: the Vorticist Ezra Pound versus the Futurist F.T. Marinetti, 1910-1920
This paper examines Ezra Pound and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's exchanges between 1910 and 1920, the most critical period of relations between these two figures, that of the historic avant-garde before and after World War I. within the context of the pre- and immediate postwar avant-garde period. I will trace Marinetti's impact on London (lectures, exhibitions, etc.), through his publication, with Nevinson, of the futurist manifesto, 'Vital English Art', as well as the polemical Vorticist counter-attack Lewis and Pound formulated in Blast and elsewhere. Here they compared their contrasting cultures: Italy was still agricultural (which gave rise to macchinolatria - machine worship), while England was already industrial and technological (hence the criticism of Marinetti's excessive focus on the machine). All of which motivated Marinetti to theorize the tabula rasa of a past which hindered and inhibited the new, while Pound, hungry for European tradition, was compelled to reconcile a necessary renewal ("Make it New!") in dialogue with the classics of the past.
I will touch upon key points of the Futurist project as laid out in manifestos; upon Marinetti's speech to the British public in London, the Discours futuriste aux Anglais; and and glance at Pound's early production—particularly focused on medieval culture—and its progressive (but slow) evolution toward modernity in the form of a program (modernism). I will then consider Pound's more heated challenge, between 1913-1914, with his "scandalous" and "dithyrambic" poems and the iconoclastic and militant Pound's vehemently anti-establishment journalism, which followed his renunciation of his ascetic Imagism and his more active engagement with the radical visual arts which were leading the modernist renewal of form across Europe. Finally I will reflect upon the 'repentant' Pound of the rappel à l'ordre in the postwar years and upon the concept and practice of Tradition that T.S. Eliot revived in 1919: the basis for a less ephemeral revolution (with respect to the heroic pre-war phase, however fundamental that was) which nurtured and consolidated masterpieces of Anglo-American modernism, from Eliot's Waste Land to Joyce's Ulysses and Pound's Cantos.
Giovanni Cianci was born in Milan in 1940 and studied with Agostino Lombardo. He continued his studies at the University of Cambridge (Darwin College, 1968-70). Cianci has been an English literature professor since 1976, teaching at the universities of Rome (1969-70), Palermo (1970-82), and Genoa (1982-94). He was professor of English literature in the Department of Letters at the University of Milan from 1994-95. As of 2007 he has been the Dean of the Department of Letters and Philosophy there.
Cianci's study of 19th-century English literary criticism, La Scuola di Cambridge, was published in 1970. In 1974 it was followed by La Fortuna di Joyce in Italia. He has examined historical avant-gardes in: Futurismo/Vorticismo (1979); Wyndham Lewis-Letteratura/Pittura (1982); Modernismo/Modernismi (1991); and La città, 1830-1930 (1991).
Cianci is widely published in Italian and foreign journals and anthologies. He has written extensively on the critics and writers of the 19th century (J. Conrad, F.M. Ford, E. Pound, D.H. Lawrence, T.E. Hulme, W. Lewis, J. Joyce, and T.S. Eliot). He organized the international, interdisciplinary conference "J. Ruskin and Modernism," and edited its papers (New York: Palgrave, 2001). In 2001 he organized and published the conference proceedings of Il Cézanne degli scrittori dei poeti e dei filosofi (Milano, 2001). In 2006 he published the volume Anglo-American Modernity and the Mediterranean. In 2007 he co-edited, with Jason Harding, the proceedings of an interdisciplinary, international conference on T.S. Eliot, published by Cambridge University Press as T.S. Eliot and the Concept of Tradition (paperback edition, 2009). His most recent, co-edited work is Transits: The Nomadic Geographies of Anglo-American Modernism (Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2010).