A. Critical and Comparative Studies

27. Baird, James. ‘Critical Problems in the Orientalism of Western Poetry’. In Asia and the Humanities, edited by Horst Frenz. Bloomington: Comparative  Literature Committee, Indiana University, 1959.

A contentious piece that attempts ‘finally . . . to suggest certain impressive differences between West and East in the meaning of poetic experience’. Distinguishes between two ‘kinds’ of Orientalism in European and American poetry. The first represents a ‘superficial concern’ and is of ‘minor aesthetic importance’. Examples include Fletcher’s ‘persistent devotion to the sensuous image and nothing else’ and Amy Lowell’s ‘imagined “Oriental” feeling’ and ‘quest for exotic color’. A more ‘seriously posited’ Orientalism has been undertaken by writers who ‘have turned to the Orient . . . at least intent upon finding substitutions for what has been lost in the West’. Baird disagrees with those who would place Pound in this category, but believes that Fenollosa’s notebooks contain ‘significant pages . . . which seem to be expressions of Japanese mentality’, and that Yeats, in his introduction to the Pound/Fenollosa versions of the nô (BL11) and elsewhere, offers an ‘impressive . . . non-Western rejection of absolutism’. Baird is not altogether persuasive about ‘the meaning of poetic experience’ in Asia, but the work is impressive in its insistence on the reality of Asian experience independent of Western representation of it, and in its clear distinction between works that deliberately invoke ‘a vagrant dream world’ and those that turn to Asia with ‘reverence’.





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