Literary ventriloquism: Pound, Celan, Mandelstam and twentieth-century poetic translation
"Literary ventriloquism" is the ability of a writer to speak through another author's words through translation and imitation. I begin my study with an examination of classical and Humanist imitatio, particularly the way Classical authors were used to effect the cultural rebirth of the Renaissance, demonstrating how translation and imitation are central aspects of the origin of the major European traditions.
I then apply these insights (well-established in Renaissance studies) to the twentieth century and examine what recent versions of imitatio have looked like. The main thing I believe distinguishes it is the use of "literary ventriloquism." Modern authors perform something very similar to the Humanist poets, only they do it through translation, hiding behind the original other. It is my contention that an understanding of Renaissance imitation and the "archaeological mode" (the ability to revive authors and the cultural and ethical values associated with them through translation and imitation) can help us understand the work of poets in other key times in literary history.
Modernism supplies a particularly productive example due to a shared sense of cultural crisis. In the same way that Renaissance poets imitate their models in order to revive them, but produce their own personal poetic self and develop their own national traditions in the process, so Ezra Pound appropriates past poets to create the rebirth known as Modernism. Placing him within a theory of cultural evolution, I look at the ways in which Pound's "making new" was instrumental in the inception of the Modernist movement. Paul Celan was faced with a different and more pressing problem, yet turned to the same solution. After the near decimation of his cultures in the wake of WWII, Celan began the task of resuscitating German culture through his translations and poetry. Osip Mandelstam was faced with the same problem. In Soviet Russia he confronted the destruction of Russian culture as he knew it. His translations were his way of trying to preserve the cultural and ethical values inherent in the Humanist tradition.
British and Irish literature
0314: Slavic literature
0593: British and Irish literature