Hatton Baldwin, Lydia (2018) Interdisciplinary Modernism: Ezra Pound’s Le Testament de Villon and his approach to opera. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Best known for his contributions to poetry, Ezra Pound has been long-hailed as a pioneer of modernism. His Cantos have been widely studied for their deeper meaning and poetic style, often leading to the neglect of Pound’s achievements in other artistic fields. In this thesis, I will be evaluating Pound’s style and approach from an interdisciplinary perspective, investigating the consistency with which Pound applied his style across his work in different disciplines. Pound’s involvement with the BBC was extremely important to his continued success, so I will explore his relationships within the institution and question the impact these had on him and his longevity. Finally, I will analyse his use of form and media, for which I will primarily be using Pound’s first radio opera Le Testament de Villon as a case study, with references to his second opera Cavalcanti. Pound’s operas are by far the least well-known of his works, so serve as useful examples when exploring how effective Pound was as an interdisciplinary modernist.

There are multiple paradoxical elements of both Pound’s work and his supporting literature (such as his Imagist manifesto A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste). Inconsistencies between theory and practice challenge Pound’s credibility in regards to being a consistent and authentic modernist, and this is also something I will be considering in this thesis. I will then be able to tackle the issue of ‘Pound’s work versus his politics’, questioning how the separation of the two, which was allowed to occur by praise from critical texts and chronological distance, has impacted Pound’s reception and longevity.

Le Testament de Villon was first broadcast on the BBC in October 1931, making Pound’s relationship with the institution a vital part of this thesis. I will be exploring his involvement with the BBC both in terms of the broadcasting of his works, and his employment writing for The Listener, using my findings to assess the effect of these relationships on the reception of him and his works. I will also be tackling Pound’s work in translation by looking at some examples of his translations and drawing parallels with his approaches and styles in other fields. There are also useful examples of reception to his translations, which will feed into the final section of the thesis.

The topic of reception will be the final issue addressed in this thesis. Public opinion of him and his works have been famously mixed, and I will assess this issue through an interdisciplinary lens by looking at a broader range of sources on reception across his disciplines, rather than a large quantity of sources pertaining to only one artistic field. Pound’s operas are arguably the ultimate interdisciplinary works as they incorporate several different disciplines, so by unpicking his approach to them I will be able to create a more well-rounded view of Pound as an artist.

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