Ezra Pound’s Classes of Writers

When you start searching for ‘pure elements’ in literature you will find that literature has been created by the following classes of persons:

  1. Inventors. Men who found a new process, or whose extant work gives us the first known example of a process.
  2. The masters. Men who combined a number of such processes, and who used them as well or better than the inventors [SS: You could class Hemingway in this category viz-a-viz Sherwood Anderson]
  3. The diluters. Men who came after the first two kinds of writer, and couldn’t do the job quite as well.
  4. Good writers without salient qualities. Men who are fortunate enough to be born when literature of a country is in good working order, or when some branch of writing is ‘healthy’. For example, men who wrote sonnets in Dante’s time, men who wrote short lyrics in Shakespeare’s time or for several decades thereafter, or who wrote French novels and stories after Flaubert had shown them how.
  5. Writers of belle-lettres. That is, men who didn’t really invent anything, but specialized in some particular part of writing, who couldn’t be considered as ‘great men’ or as authors who were trying to give a complete presentation of life, or of their epoch.
  6. The starters of crazes. [SS: Too many of this type in our day: J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Tom Clancy, etc.]

Source: Pound, Ezra. ABC of Reading1934. Reprint, New York: New Directions, 2010. pp. 39-40

I highly recommend the rest of the book as a brief, but sweeping survey of Western literature.



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