Synopses & Reviews
This important and much-disputed essay edited by Ezra Pound from the manuscript of Ernest Fenollosa (and published in Instigations, London, 1920) has since gone through several editions, despite the ridicule of such sinologists as Professor George Kennedy of Yale, who called it “a small mass of confusion.
The old theory as to the nature of the Chinese written character (which Pound and Fenollosa followed) is that the written character is ideogrammic—a stylized picture of the thing or concept it represents. The opposing theory (which prevails today among scholars) is that the character may have had pictorial origins in prehistoric times but that these origins have been obscured in all but a few very simple cases, and that in any case native writers don’t have the original pictorial meaning in mind as they write.
Whether Pound proceeded on false premises remains an academic question. Let the pedants rave. An important extension of imagist technique in poetry was gained by Pound’s perception of the essentially poetic nature of the Chinese character as it is still written.