The Cantos Project

The Cantos Project is dedicated to the research and study of The Cantos of Ezra Pound (1917-1969), the most extensive and complex poetic work of the 20th century.

Principal Investigator
Dr Andrew Taylor
Leverhulme Research Assistant
Dr Roxana Preda
Ten images related to Ezra Pound's Cantos

The Cantos of Ezra Pound is an encyclopaedic, modernist poem in 116 parts, composed over a period of more than fifty years, central to twentieth-century literature. Its length, knowledge and poetic methods have posed considerable difficulty to scholars, preventing a reliable analysis of the meaning of individual cantos and of their relationship to one another. Though sections of the poem and even individual cantos have been researched and discussed over the years, professional attention has been very unevenly distributed, favouring just a few cantos (such as 4, 36, 49, 75) or whole sections (like The Pisan Cantos). Though Carroll F. Terrell published a two-volume Companion to the poem in 1980 and 1985, his work has never been corrected or supplemented. It is now more than thirty years old and cannot take into account the complexity of research done on the poem over the past three decades.

By focusing on cantos individually and relating them to each other as elements in a network, The Leverhulme funded Cantos Project proposes a detailed view of the poem that challenges our present lacunar, unbalanced knowledge. To achieve this end, the project will provide multimedia annotation for each canto, showcase its sources and pool together information from existing scholarship. The objectives are to provide a research hub for the The Cantos, foster innovative, independent study of the poem and enable an enhanced comprehension of each canto by means of a detailed scholarly apparatus.

The primary service of The Cantos Project is the universally accessible digital platform on which the poem can be presented together with its critical apparatus. The digital medium does justice to the interdisciplinarity and multimedia side of the poem responding to the need to present scholarship on it dynamically, in a continuous process of update and renewal.

The digital display, multimedia, and scholarly apparatus have learning benefits, since they impact both individual and classroom study. By providing the necessary and consistent support for approaching the poem, the project benefits researchers, students and the informed general reader, ensuring the survival of this rich work into the reading and research structures of the 21st century.

The annotation of the poem proceeds serially, mastering the complexity of the work in small steps at regular intervals. The method ensures discipline and accountability; it is in the public eye and subject to correction and supplementation at any time. Publishing work as it is being done, and not at the end of a five or ten year period, benefits from collaborations with other Pound scholars, allowing the project to remain current as it is being developed and to respond quickly to scholarly initiatives, publications, or interpretations as they emerge.

The benefits of the project reside in its research questions, its pioneering methodologies and the interactive, community-oriented digital technology, which it applies to a poem of the utmost complexity. We envisage that the project will inaugurate a genuinely collaborative way of reading and discussing this canonical, but still little understood text of transatlantic modernism. Since The Cantos is the product of a lifelong inquiry, the research on it is necessarily interdisciplinary, drawing from a range of fields in the humanities and social sciences, particularly languages, literature, history, economics and politics.

The project has considerable classroom value and the potential to develop into a virtual space for self-study, universally open and independent of the print resources, which at the moment are very unevenly distributed among the academic libraries of the world. It will thus radically decenter the discipline away from more conventional practices of research, renewing work processes, communication routines and teaching.

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