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This review is taken from PN Review 47, Volume 12 Number 3, January - February 1986.

WORLDS Peter Makin, Pound's Cantos (George Allen & Unwin), £15.00, £7.50 pb.

A short cut to a feeling of mastery over the Cantos might be deconstruction. The text seems to cry out for it. Anthony Easthope tells us in Poetry as Discourse (Methuen, 1983) that with Canto 84, for example, the reader is 'confronted with a typeface that is graphematic, an instance of writing'; the poem 'does not set up a consistent narrator or represented speaker'. There is a 'disruptive effect' whereby 'the shifting "I" . . . becomes available as a position in the text for the reader producing the text in the present.' In other words, the reader, reception and the written word subsume author, intention and the world.

All such talk is alien to Peter Makin. He tells us that Pound's verse is written precisely so that we may 'read into things' only those 'powers that favour human well-being'. The student of the Cantos needs to be properly primed if the reading is going to have the right effect. Thus themes need expounding; and, where appropriate, the relation of theme to form. At the same time he is aware that the terms of his contract do not forbid controversy. An introduction may say new things, may revize scholarly opinion.

The author of the Cantos once declared that they were merely footnotes to the Divine Comedy. Peter Makin has taken the hint; and this volume of the Unwin Critical Library is appropriately authoritative on Dante. However, looking up references to the Comedy is apparently a ...


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