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Neohelicon

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 233–249 | Cite as

Beyond the pictogram: echoes of the Naxi in Ezra Pound’s Cantos

Article

Abstract

Two unusual characters appear in the closing lines of Ezra Pound’s Canto CXII (from his “Drafts and Fragments”), characters that may offer up the most complete example of Pound’s much-discussed “ideogrammic method”. The characters discussed in this paper belong to the Naxi dongba script, the logographic writing system of a tribe in China’s south-western province of Yunnan. Pound’s sources are analysed and a new theory of the origin of the two characters—from Joseph Rock’s translation of a Naxi ritual text—is put forward. The two Naxi dongba characters in Canto CXII unlock the meaning of the canto within which they appear, and echo themes that run through the Cantos when taken as a whole. But we can also see Pound using both pictorial and phonetic elements of the script to create a “cumulative ideogram”, and through this comparative Poundian lens we can update our historically limited understanding of the Naxi writing system.

Keywords

Ezra Pound Naxi Ideogram Dongba Pictogram 

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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Room 126, Department of TranslationThe Chinese University of Hong KongShatinHong Kong

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