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Ezra Pound and Ernst Kantorowicz: From medieval to modern autocracies

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Ezra Pound became a leading anglophone propagandist for fascist Italy – a kind of Romanesque Lord Haw-Haw – which subsequently coloured both his politics and his poetry. Between summer 1940 and spring 1945, and already building several dozen gratis propaganda texts lauding Italy’s imperial conquest of Abyssinia, supporting an ‘international fascism’ that embraced both Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and Hitler’s Germany, Pound wrote or broadcast thousands of radio items, first for Italy’s state-run EIAR, and then for the Salò Republic. In doing so, he never ceased his well-paid propaganda activities, using at least a dozen pseudonymous ‘personae’ in order to continue his radio transmissions throughout the war. This article examines the influence of Ernst Kantorowicz’s Frederick II, 1194–1250 ([1927] 1931) – a text described only 25 years ago as a ‘fascist classic’ – may have had on Pound’s embrace of Italian Fascism and later sacralization of Mussolini’s dictatorship. This article also includes new research into Pound’s handwritten annotations in his personal copy of Kantorowicz’s book, now in the Ezra Pound Collection of The Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas in Austin.
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Keywords: Ernst Kantorowicz; Ezra Pound; Frederick II; anti-Semitism; dictatorship; exile; fascism; propaganda

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of York

Publication date: September 1, 2018

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