While Pound hoped that ABC of Reading would be suitable and useful as a textbook that could be read “for pleasure as well as profit” and make the teacher’s lot more interesting, readers will find that the volume does not have the form of a textbook as conventionally understood. Rather, in view of its conversational tone and its loosely organized format, it might more accurately be described as a notebook, or even a reflective diary which Pound is sharing with the world. Nevertheless, Pound seems to be concerned with several specific kinds of ideas or principles in particular regarding any study of poetry: using scientific method in studying poetry, especially by “getting to the root of the matter” as he believed Ernest Fenollosa did when he proposed using the ideogrammic method in writing; extracting only the best writing even from among works that may have been considered good for a long time; keeping language “efficient” (the only way to keep a nation’s literature from decaying, according to Pound); recognizing that it is impossible for all human wisdom to be contained in any one language; and realizing that great literature is “language charged with meaning to the utmost degree.”
Pound was greatly influenced by Ernest Fenollosa’s The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, and it is an oft-noted fact that Fenollosa’s essay influenced Pound’s concept of applying scientific method to the study of...
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