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Utopias of One$
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Joshua Kotin

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691196541

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691196541.001.0001

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Reading Ezra Pound and J. H. Prynne in Chinese

Reading Ezra Pound and J. H. Prynne in Chinese

(p.109) Chapter Six Reading Ezra Pound and J. H. Prynne in Chinese
Utopias of One

Joshua Kotin

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines Ezra Pound's and J. H. Prynne's use of Chinese poetry to understand the problem of motivation—and the incentive structures that govern modern life. It considers how difficult poetry illuminates the difficulty of motivating social change. Here, Prynne's work, “Jie ban mi Shi Hu,” exemplifies a problem for readers of his work, and for literary and social theory: How and why should we read texts that make extravagant, even impossible demands? The question asks us to justify the value of particular texts and the values of the world that receive them. To put this point a different way, when we ask for reasons to accept a poem's invitation to do work, we should also ask what kind of world would have to exist to make the invitation seem reasonable, and whether we would want to live in that world. Similar questions are relevant to debates about utopianism.

Keywords:   Ezra Pound, J. H. Prynne, Chinese poetry, Jie ban mi Shi Hu, social change, motivation, social theory, literary theory

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