Poetry VS Rhetoric

Topics: Modernism, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound Pages: 4 (2029 words) Published: March 25, 2015

Benjamin Degryse
Engelstalige letterkunde: nieuwere periode
Essay on the poetic rejection of rhetoric influence during early modernism

The Paradoxical Poetic Rejection of Rhetoric Influence During Early Modernism “Writers move upon other writers not as genial successors but as violent expropriators, knocking down established boundaries to seize by the force of youth, or of age, what they require. They do not borrow, they override.” (Ellmann 1958) Rhetoric and poetry have long been treated as brother and sister on the common ground of appealing to the emotional state of its audiences via textual performance. Both have been subjected to criticism throughout history: Plato for instance, rejected poetry because, among other things, it did not provide true knowledge and similarly, certain modernist poets renounce rhetoric for being deceptive speech (Nicholls 2011). As the quote by Ellmann suggests, they reacted against their preceding traditions, be it philosophically or poetically. In the case of such modernists, this reaction would result in a completely new mode of writing: symbolism and its variations. This essay deals with the paradoxical rejection of rhetoric influences in early modernist poetry, as was reflected by William Butler Yeats and Ezra Pound at the time. I will tackle this issue by i) reflecting on which influences they renounced and ii) how this came to be paradoxical. It should be noted however, that these comments are aimed at a certain period in the authors’ work, and do not necessarily hold true for their entire oeuvre. The poetic revolt against rhetoric originated in late 19th century France under symbolist works by Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine and others. Their criticism and works were introduced to poets in the United Kingdom (Yeats) as well as in the United States (Pound) via Arthur Symons’ ‘The Symbolist Movement in Literature’ (1899), and as such, undermined the late Victorian mode which was “steeped in rhetoric” (Nicholls...

References: Altieri, Charles. 2004. Rhetoric and Poetics: How to Use the Inevitable Return of the Repressed. A Companion to Rhetoric and Rhetorical Criticism, ed. Walter Jost and Wendy Olmsted. Oxford: Blackwell, 474.
Ellmann, Richard. 1958. Introduction. In The Symbolist Movement in Literature. By Arthur Symons, vii–xvi. New York: E. P. Dutton.
Keller, Michael. 2014. Rhetoric and Modernism: The Case of Poetry’s Banquet, 1914. Advances in the History of Rhetoric. South Dakota State University: Published online, 21st March, 2014.
Nicholls, Peter. 2011. Poetry and Rhetoric: Modernism and Beyond. New York University.
Scholes, Robert. 2006. In Paradoxy of Modernism. New haven: Yale University Press.
Symons, Arthur. 1958. The Symbolist Movement in Literature. New York: E. P. Dutton. First published 1899.
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