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This article is taken from PN Review 170, Volume 32 Number 6, July - August 2006.

Without Copula David Rollow

The companions of the Muses
    Will keep their collective nose in my books,
    And weary with historical data, they will turn to my dance tune.
                                                                              Ezra Pound


In June 1948, Marshall McLuhan and his student Hugh Kenner stopped at St Elizabeth's mental hospital in Washington, DC to spend a couple of hours with Ezra Pound. The visit changed Kenner's life and redirected McLuhan's thinking. McLuhan, then a front-line New Critic, was on the way to hand Kenner over to Cleanth Brooks, the high priest, for graduate study at Yale. There Kenner would write his dissertation on Ezra Pound. McLuhan's encounter with Pound - though its importance and depth have been exaggerated - encouraged McLuhan in his generalism and may have helped him liberate himself from New Critical orthodoxies and eventually from the practice of literary criticism altogether.

I was surprised to find him cited in Dennis Donoghue's book on T.S. Eliot, Words Alone, as having coined the phrase 'juxtaposition without copula'. I'd wondered about where the phrase came from, so when I used it in an essay I gave Donoghue as the authority for McLuhan's coinage. Lesson one: always check. The editor doubted the reference, so I set out to trace the phrase back to its source. It should have been a routine and pleasant afternoon of library work, but it turned out to be a quest for certainty that took most of a summer and led me ...


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