Ezra Pound’s Bughouse

In The Nation, Evan Kindley reviews Daniel Swift’s new book The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound (“The Insanity Defense: Coming to terms with Ezra Pound’s politics”).

A couple of passages stood out to me. First, there is the role that the incipient pathologizing of anti-Semitism (as documented so well in Kevin MacDonald’s The Culture of Critique) had in Pound’s case:

[S]ome major paradigm shifts within the American political and medical communities helped to establish the conditions under which the Pound defense was possible. In their recent study Are Racists Crazy?, Sander L. Gilman and James M. Thomas show how, during the early decades of the 20th century, racism and anti-Semitism began to be regarded more and more as pathological conditions. While psychology had earlier focused on the supposed irrationality and moral degeneracy of nonwhite races, utilizing theories that often harmonized with Pound’s own, the discipline gradually shifted, especially as details of the Nazi Holocaust began to emerge, and came to see racism as itself a psychological problem. The theories of émigré psychoanalysts like Erich Fromm, Erik H. Erikson, and Wilhelm Reich, who regarded racism, fascism, and anti-Semitism as symptoms of arrested development or sexual repression, only helped to confirm this notion. “[I]f the nineteenth-century Jew and black American bore the mark of insanity,” Gilman and Thomas write, “by the end of World War II that mark would be placed upon those whose hatred targeted the Jew and black American.”

Then, there is this slice of Greenwhich Village that would never exist today:

Another protégé was John Kasper, the owner of a bookstore in Greenwich Village specializing in racist and anti-Semitic literature. (He’d named it Make It New, after one of Pound’s most famous critical pronouncements.) Later, Kasper became a leading figure in the right-wing reaction to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision.

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