Unconscious Self‐Appraisals in Literary Works

Unconscious Self‐Appraisals in Literary Works

Ezra Pound struck a pencil through the lines in The Waste Land manuscript that referred to the
writing of bad poetry. Similarly, his mentee Hemingway cut a description of poor novel‐writing
from The Sun also Rises. In both cases, it was a character in the text (Fresca, Jake) who was
described producing bad writing, not the author himself. What intrigues me is the possibility
that these passages were cut as unfortunate self‐reflections. I proceed to suggest that selfcritical
voices accompany literary composition, at times make their way into the manuscript
and in happier cases are cut. In this paper I will attempt to demonstrate these claims, both in
regard to the two texts above (pointing, for instance, to the fact that Jake at that point in the
manuscript’s history was still called ‘Hem’), and through an eclectic archive of related instances
from Anglophone novelists and poets, including Anne Enright, John Keats, Robert Lowell, Craig
Raine and Alice Oswald. This will involve speculating on what an imperative to cut disguised
authorial self‐evaluations implies about the nature of literary composition, with key attention
to what it implies about the performativity of that process.
Paul Magee studied in Melbourne, Moscow, San Salvador and Sydney. His books are From Here
to Tierra del Fuego (University of Illinois Press 2000), Cube Root of Book (John Leonard Press
2006) and Stone Postcard (John Leonard Press 2014). Cube Root of Book was shortlisted in the
Innovation category of the 2008 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, while Stone Postcard
was named in Australian Book Review as one of the books of the year. Paul has published
widely on poetic composition and critical judgement. He teaches poetry at the University of
Canberra, where he is Associate Professor

Date & time

Thu 10 May 2018, 1–2pm


Milgate Room, AD Hope Building, ANU


Paul Magee


Russell Smith


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