James Laughlin, New Directions, and the Remaking of Ezra Pound

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Univ of Massachusetts Press, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 272 pages
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Although James Laughlin (1914-1997) came from one of Pittsburgh's leading steel-making families, his passions were literary rather than industrial--he wanted to be a poet. Laughlin was a freshman at Harvard when he traveled to Rapallo, Italy, in 1933 to meet Ezra Pound (1885-1972), and he returned the following year to enroll in the poet's "Ezuversity." Pound dismissed Laughlin's poetic talents, advising the wealthy young man to make himself over into a publisher. Laughlin did just that, founding New Directions Press in 1936.

For much of the 1930s prior to World War II, Laughlin and Pound were friends, business associates, collaborators, student and teacher, and even at times son and surrogate father. But Laughlin's investment in Pound--and their friendship--was severely tested by Pound's wartime propaganda broadcasts for Italian state radio, his capture and abortive trial for treason, and his thirteen-year stay as a mental patient in St. Elizabeth's Hospital. Following this scandal and disgrace, the reading public no longer wanted to buy Pound's books, and the critical establishment dismissed him as a Fascist crank.

Laughlin and New Directions responded by marketing Pound in such a way as to convince consumers that the poet's importance needed to be judged solely on aesthetic grounds, and that his political beliefs were irrelevant to his accomplishments as a pioneering literary artist. With Pound's encouragement, and despite the poet's oft-expressed opposition to the mixture of commerce and art, Laughlin used such marketing tools as advertising, the cultivation of friendly critics, and the development of the trade paperback to enhance Pound's reputation.

Drawing on a wide range of sources--including interviews with Laughlin and other New Directions staffers and published materials from numerous literary archives--Gregory Barnhisel tells the story of the personal and professional relationship between one of the twentieth century's most controversial writers and his loyal and innovative American publisher--a relationship that eventually helped remake literary history and continues to shape our understanding of modernism itself

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Pound and the Publishing Industry
Fighting the Enemy The Birth of New Directions
The Objective Perception of Value The Bollingen Award
Prying Apart Poetry and Politics
The Pound Era

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Page 9 - MS. The voice that issues from this Spirit is that Vox Populi which the Deity inspires. Foolish must he be who can mistake for this a local acclamation, or a transitory outcry — transitory though it be for years, local though from a Nation. Still more lamentable is his error who can believe that there is...
Page 9 - Works, it is this, - that every Author, as far as he is great and at the same time original, has had the task of creating the taste by which he is to be enjoyed: so has it been, so will it continue to be.
Page 10 - It is a metaphor, taken from a passive sense of the human body, and transferred to things which are in their essence not passive — to intellectual acts and operations.

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About the author (2005)

Gregory Barnhisel is assistant professor of English and director of the First-Year Writing Program at Duquesne University.

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