While Pound has come to be regarded as a major figure in American letters, celebrated by T. S. Eliot as the man most responsible for the revolution in twentieth century poetry, his friend Wyndham Lewis called Pound “the Trotsky of literature,” correctly identifying Pound’s interest in literature as part of a political vision, a subversive one at that. In his Guide to Kulchur, Pound attempted to explain and illustrate by example a political philosophy for a just state that would produce a climate of cultural harmony in which all the arts might flourish. To do this, he set out to analyze the process of learning to determine why educational systems were generally, in his view, failures that closed rather than opened minds. Once he had accounted for this widespread disorder, he offered a kind of unified field theory of knowledge called the New Learning, in which he tried to show, citing appropriate examples from world literature, how true wisdom might be realized.
He used as a kind of touchstone the Analects and Odes of Confucius (whom he called Kung) because he regarded the Chinese ideogrammic method of communication as the most powerful of symbol systems in the realm of printed language. For example, he mentions that “the dominant element in the sign for learning in the love of learning chapter is a mortar. That is, the knowledge must be ground into a fine powder.” The visual image here reinforces the meaning rather...
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