And a good job? Elektrifying English at St. Elizabeths

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Rather than a sudden turn late in his career, Pound's highly experimental version of Sophocles's Elektra - undertaken in 1949 but published posthumously - is the culmination of a lifelong, though ambivalent, engagement with Greek tragedy and the possibility of its translation. Flaunting the interdependence of its two languages, Greek and English, Pound's Elektra exhibits the linguistic interaction and exchange that might precede the monolingual smoothness of any given translation, thus laying bare the process of translating itself. The text's bilingualism encodes its antithetical ambitions, one poetic and the other political, because Pound uses the play to devise a new prosody for his writing after the war and at the same time continue the ghost theater of the Pisan Cantos. Extending his treatment of fragments from Aeschylus's Agamemnon in the Pisan Cantos, Pound in the Elektra dissects his Greek original for two purposes. He first sees what it is made of sonically and metrically - which allows him to measure his own language against the Greek and against itself. Second, he seeks to reveal and transmit what the original does not explicitly say and on which its value depends for Pound: that "the dead don't die," be they languages, texts, or murdered generals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-111
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Modern Literature
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory


  • Ezra pound
  • Prosody
  • Sophocles's Elektra
  • Translation


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