Walter Pater — Imagism — Objectivist Verse


  • Richard Parker (University of Sussex)



In this paper I make a two-fold argument; first that the Objectivist inheritance from modernism is, in a specific sense, Paterian, and secondly, that this Paterian influence (manifested principally in the form of the Paterian aesthetic moment) is not, as might be assumed, in conflict with the political tendencies exhibited by my central examples—Ezra Pound and Louis Zukofsky—but that the arguably apolitical aesthetic moment is in fact key to their political understandings. I will begin analysing how the Paterian moment lingers in Pound's poetry, especially his Imagist and Vorticist work, and is still at the core of his poetics when he begins The Cantos. I will then go on to argue that this same Paterian aesthetic moment continues in the early work of second-generation Modernists the Objectivists, and will look at the works of Louis as a representative example. I will then argue that this group of poets' Communism is not a break with their engagement with Paterian aestheticism, but that the Paterian moment is in fact alloyed with their understanding of Marxist-Leninism. The engagement with the far left that is generally supposed to mark these writers' defining divide with their modernist forebears will therefore be shown to be more closely linked to the older generation's practices than it might be thought and I will, finally, question the apparently aesthetic basis of Pound's alignment with the far-right.

Author Biography

Richard Parker (University of Sussex)

The University of Sussex