This essay examines Ezra Pound’s mobilizations of the figure of the troubadour poet Arnaut Daniel in the articulation of his own poetics, from The Spirit of Romance of 1910 through the 1930s. Arnaut emerges as a particularly fraught figure in Pound’s negotiations with Eliot, but also in relation to his reading of Dante’s defense of the vernacular, a question that Pound works through by way of the counterintuitive process of translation, with the goal of defending American usage against the linguistic regulatory norms of England. Through recourse to a lexicon derived from the Scottish poet Gavin Douglas in the later translations of Arnaut, Pound’s practice enters into dialogue with broader modernist questions concerning vernacular, regional, or nonstandard usage: what Robert Crawford calls the “provincial” modernist assault on England as cultural and linguistic center of the anglophone world. Pound’s concerns in this respect are read in relation to those of the Irish Samuel Beckett and above all the Scottish Hugh MacDiarmid, in their elaborations of a concept of the vernacular that they both deem “synthetic.” In all cases, translation or multilingualism becomes a central element in a regionally and socially marked vernacular capable of resisting nostalgic claims to cultural totality and the concomitant policing of authenticity.

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