Super Schoolmaster

Ezra Pound as Teacher, Then and Now

By Robert Scholes & David Ben-Merre

Subjects: Literary Criticism, Biography, Education, Higher Education, Literary History
Paperback : 9781438481463, 221 pages, July 2021
Hardcover : 9781438481470, 221 pages, January 2021

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Table of contents


Preface: Back to Basics
Robert Scholes

Preface: In a Station
David Ben-Merre


1. Pounding the Academy: The Poet as Student and Teacher

2. The Critic as Teacher: Pound's "New Method" in Scholarship

3. How to Read Comparatively

4. Periodical Studies

5. The Instructor as Propagandist

Afterword: Schools of Fish
David Ben-Merre

Works Cited

Traces the controversial poet’s thinking about teaching and learning throughout his career.


Once described by T. S. Eliot as "first and foremost, a teacher and campaigner," Ezra Pound has received no shortage of critical attention. Super Schoolmaster suggests that Pound still has quite a bit to teach readers in the twenty-first century, particularly amid increasing threats to the humanities and higher education. Robert Scholes and David Ben-Merre illuminate Pound's contradictory career of innovative poetics and reactionary politics by following his extensive thinking about teaching and learning within and beyond the academy. Given how scornful Pound could be of institutionalized schooling, the book's title may feel like a misnomer; however, Super Schoolmaster makes clear how wholeheartedly this modernist icon believed in the importance and vitality of learning. Pound's brief flirtation with becoming a professional academic ended early on, but his entire life's work can be seen as an immense pedagogical lesson, promoting a living, breathing culture tied to the very fabric of contemporary life. Not to ignore his critics, who have taught the necessity of reading against Pound, Scholes and Ben-Merre propose that to reread Pound now is to celebrate the joy of learning while always remaining mindful of the ultimate perils of his example.

Robert Scholes (1929–2016) was Andrew W. Mellon Professor Emeritus of Humanities at Brown University. A prolific author, his books include In Search of James Joyce and Textual Power: Literary Theory and the Teaching of English. David Ben-Merre is Associate Professor of English at Buffalo State College, State University of New York. He is the author of Figures of Time: Disjunctions in Modernist Poetry, also published by SUNY Press.


"Scholes and Ben-Merre offer thoughtful close readings of key texts in which Pound articulated his theories of teaching and learning." — James Joyce Quarterly

"Super Schoolmaster provides an alert and informed review of an important feature in Ezra Pound's poetic career—the wish to teach the values of culture to a huge audience, in fact as many people as possible, which takes us from his vision for a new form of pedagogy to his political delusions of grandeur. In so doing, it also provides a superb conclusion to the critical work of Robert Scholes. In recent decades, Scholes had moved from his early study of semiology and post-structuralism toward historical studies of modernism focused on little magazines and archives. While his scholarly approach and concerns shifted, his work was always reflexive about different modes of learning and their historical stakes for the future of the humanities. All these facets of Scholes's career are visible throughout this posthumous book." — Jean-Michel Rabaté, author of 1913: The Cradle of Modernism