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The Degenerate MuseAmerican Nature, Modernist Poetry, and the Problem of Cultural Hygiene$
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Robin G. Schulze

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199920327

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199920327.001.0001

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. Ezra Pound and the Poetics of Hygiene

. Ezra Pound and the Poetics of Hygiene

(p.110) 3. Ezra Pound and the Poetics of Hygiene
The Degenerate Muse

Robin G. Schulze

Oxford University Press

Ezra Pound was well aware of the work of Max Simon Nordau, which cast all experimental modernist literature as a symptom of wide spread racial degeneration. Pound’s 1912 essay, “Patria Mia,” reveals that he, like Nordau, had his doubts about the potential degeneracy of the English milieu that he chose to inhabit. Lacking in American health and vigor, London drove Pound to consider how he might write poetry that could express his cultivation while resisting the threat of degeneration. The evolution of Pound’s first set of thirteen poems for Harriet Monroe and Poetry, A Magazine of Verse entitled “Contemporania” demonstrates that Pound’s desire to write clean verse that expressed his nation’s racial fitness led him back to nature in a variety of ways. The vigor and truth of American nature inspired Pound to explore a new form of concrete language in his Imagist works and prompted his ultimate disgust with his degenerate English hosts in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley.

Keywords:   Ezra Pound, degeneration, modernism, poetry, nature, contemporania, Patria Mia, decay, poetry, A Magazine of Verse, hygiene

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