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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.65, No.4, 587 ~ 606, 2019
The Purloined Letter of “友”: A Critique of Ezra Pound’s Poetics of Translation
Jihee Han
Taking note of Pound’s “programmatically cosmopolitan” comparative criticism in The Spirit of Romance, this paper challenges Hugh Kenner’s argument that Cathay’s achievement lies in Pound’s serious “effort to rethink the nature of an English poem.” In the discursive contexts of Foucault’s critique of truth and power and Martin Heiddeger’s notion of ‘being in the world,’ this paper suggests that Pound’s translated text does not constitute a second-order representation or a derivative, fake, potentially false copy of Li Bai’s original poetic texts, but rather a specimen of ‘another original’ created by a translator. For this purpose, this paper selects “Seeing Off Meng Haoran Leaving for Guanglin at Yellow Crane Pavilion,” “Seeing Off a Friend,” and “Seeing Off a Friend Heading for Shu Country.” For these three translated texts share a cryptic presence of “a friend” (“故人” or “友” in classical Chinese written characters), which may facilitate a novel understanding of Pound’s capability in the convergence of Eastern and Western poetic traditions that he had known of. Given the new approach, this paper attempts to reassess the real achievement of Cathay in the frontier of comparative poetics and makes an estimation of how Pound discloses Li’s world for readers to meditate on their ‘being in the world’ with his full-fledged vision of Vorticism. Ultimately, this paper aims to demonstrate that Pound’s editorial judgment, fashioned in the process of translating these three poems, constituted a critical preparatory stage for the refinement of his Vorticist vision.
Key Words
Pound, Li Bai, Cathay, comparative poetics, another original
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