Ethnography and poetic method : Southwest China, Joseph Rock, and Ezra Pound’s “Drafts & Fragments: Cantos CX–CXVII”

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-514
Journal / PublicationNeohelicon
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


Ezra Pound’s final section of the Cantos—known as Drafts and Fragments—is difficult to interpret given that Pound, probably intentionally, did not offer clear directions on the arrangement and order of the poems before his death. Much of the critical discussion of these last pages has focused on their textual history and the extent to which the poems culminate in a reflective, even confessional, reassessment of the author’s life and political views. While the final cantos are open to various interpretations, a close examination of Pound’s source material suggests that his vision of paradise may have had ideological and political dimensions and in some ways represent a working through or re-articulation of his fascist views. Such an interpretation, however, is both supported and complicated by Pound’s engagement with ethnographic research on Southwest China, and in particular the writings of Joseph Rock, which reveals a sense of reflexivity and a complex engagement with problems of representation and authenticity in ethnographic discourse.

Research Area(s)

  • Ethnography and poetry, Ezra Pound, Ezra Pound and China, Joseph Rock, The Cantos