Pound's Epic Ambition

Dante and the Modern World

By Stephen Sicari

Subjects: Literary Criticism
Series: SUNY series, The Margins of Literature
Paperback : 9780791407004, 249 pages, September 1991
Hardcover : 9780791406991, 249 pages, October 1991

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Table of contents



Introduction. The Epic Ambition: Reading Dante

1. The Wanderer as Exile: The Quest for Home

2. The Wanderer as Fascist: Mussolini, Confucius, and America

3. The Wanderer as Prophet: Aeneas and the Ideal City

4. The Wanderer as Historian: Writing Paradise

Conclusion. Palinode and Silence


Works Cited



This book is both an introductory overview of The Cantos and a detailed analysis advancing the knowledge of even the most sophisticated specialist. Sicari's analysis gives a clear orientation to the often bewildering but ultimately rewarding world of this difficult epic poem and shows that beneath the surface of the poem is the classical figure of the epic wanderer whose journey provides the "plot" of the poem.

Non-specialists will appreciate Sicari's synthesis of a wide range of material. Sicari explores how Dante and the epic tradition informs The Cantos; those interested in the epic should find Sicari's study an important contribution to the field. Those studying modernism in general will see in Sicari's definition of the modern epic useful ways to study the other great achievements of high modernism, especially those of Yeats, Eliot, and Joyce. Those interested in the relation between literature and politics will find this book especially informative, for Sicari is one of the few critics on Pound who does not ignore Pound's politics, or simply castigate him for the unfortunate views he adopts and advocates. The analysis of Pound's fascism is a sub-theme that sheds new light on how politics enters a great modernist poem and affects its shape and intention.

Stephen Sicari is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Adelphi University.


"Sicari shows, canto by canto, how Pound uses not only the Odyssey of Homer and the Commedia of Dante but also the Aenead of Virgil as an organizing principal as well as a sub-base of meaning. An informed reader will see for the first time the unity, cohesion, and systematic growth of the poem to climaxes of light in the final cantos. " — Carroll Terrell, University of Maine at Orono