Turbulent Form: The Vortex in "The Cantos" Of Ezra Pound

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Walter Sutton


Visual representation, Epic poem, Unity

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


A recurrent problem in the study of The Cantos of Ezra Pound is the question of form. Has it any, and if so, what is it and how does it work? In this dissertation I maintain that Pound invented a form, indeed an entire poetic, for The Cantos, and that the visual representation of this poetic is the vortex, a whirling and inclusive energy with which Pound binds together diverse cultural, historic, and artistic elements into an epic poem. I investigate primarily that material which Pound takes from Greece, China, Provence, from the tradition of English poetry, and from the sister art of sculpture, and how Pound, through the vortex, affords these elements mutual illumination, if not quite unity. Unity, in fact, begins to appear to be a questionable requirement from a poem which seeks to absorb a vast sampling of human experience in order to speak for a perfected humanity. Paradise, to paraphrase Pound himself, is not artificial, and to create an earthly paradise out of poetry may require a poet to eschew artificial unity in favor of inclusive organic form. The vortex is found to be organic rather than schematic, visionary or associative rather than logical, dynamic rather than structural, yet to be, nevertheless form.


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