Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Who Is Diego Pellecchia? Part 2, Ezra Pound and the Noh

This entry examines a paper written by Pellecchia entitled, “Ezra Pound and the Politics of Noh Film”: https://www.academia.edu/10252763/Ezra_Pound_and_the_Politics_of_Noh_Film.
On the About page of his blog (https://nohtheatre.wordpress.com/about/), 
Pellecchia states:
"I am recipient of the IFTR New Scholars’ Prize 2013 for my essay ‘Ezra Pound and the politics of Noh films’."

Meanwhile, the website of Royal Holloway also has a webpage announcing the prize, though they got the name of the Prize wrong: https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/dramaandtheatre/news/newsarticles/2012-13/dramaalumnusdiegopellecchiawins2013iftrnewscholarsprize.aspx.

It bears noting that aside from the above-mentioned “prize,” Pellecchia had previously been awarded a grant by the Sasakawa Foundation (https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/dramaandtheatre/news/newsarticles/2010-11/phdstudentawardedsasakawafoundationgrant.aspx), 

which was founded by another WWII Class A war criminal (Ryoichi Sasakawa: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ry%C5%8Dichi_Sasakawa) whom the CIA recruited out of his prison cell, along with the grandfather (Nobusuke Kishi) of the current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, as per the following documents disclosed by the CIA pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and submitted to the Court.

Sasakawa is known for having promoted himself as Japan’s most prominent fascist, and claiming, “I am the world’s richest fascist” (e.g., Wikipedia page), etc., and is acknowledged to have been recruited as an asset by the CIA. 

I also presented an academic paper to the Court that describes certain of Sasakawa’s activities in some detail, the first page of which is also posted below (it is available online: http://www.jpri.org/publications/workingpapers/wp83.html). 

Now, to Pellecchia’s prize-winning paper…

First, must be pointed out that Pound was one of the first Westerners to study the Noh, along with Ernest Fenollosa (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Fenollosa), whose wife entrusted her husband’s manuscripts of Noh translations to Pound to finish for publication. An individual named Nicholas Teele that appears to be the brother (http://egakkai-dwcla.com/tie/) of Rebecca Teele Ogamo, whom Pellecchia describes as a teacher, etc., here (https://nohtheatre.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/repost-interview-with-ogamo-rebecca-teele/), appears to have co-authored a study of the Noh of Fenollosa and Pound (Akiko Miyake, Sanehide Kodama, and Nicholas Teele, eds., A Guide to Ezra Pound and Ernest Fenollosa’s Classic Noh Theatre of Japan (Orono: National Poetry Foundation, University of Maine; Ezra Pound Society of Japan, Shiga University, 1994)), as per footnote 8 of the paper examined in this blog post.

This examination will consist of posting passages and quotations from the paper and examining them in context. The paper starts at page number 499.

However, Pound received Noh not only as an aesthetic object, but also as an art form expressing strong ethical messages, leading him to develop a form of political commitment to the Japanese cause during the years preceding the Second World War. It is important to point out that, in addition to books, Pound had access to another important source of knowledge: during his stay in London between 1908 and 1920, he befriended a group of Japanese artists who greatly contributed to his reception of Noh. Among them were painter Kume Tamijūrō (Tami), dramaturge Kōri Torahiko, and poet Kitasono Katsue (1902–72), with whom Pound continued to correspond until the outbreak of the Second World War. Tami Kume (1893–1923), who, unlike Michio Ito, received proper Noh training from Fenollosa’s teacher, Umewaka Minoru, was crucial to providing Pound with an understanding of Noh that texts alone could not offer. While Yeats fell for Michio’s approximations of Japanese dances, Pound was attracted by the less polished, but perhaps more ‘authentic’ dances that Kume demonstrated in London and Paris,6 and admitted that Kume “knew something of Noh that no mere philologist can find out from a text book.”

Though another point from the above passage will be revisited in the next post, here, the main point of interest to note is that Pound interacted with a group of Japanese from whom he was first exposed to Noh performance with respect to dance, among whom one individual, Tami Kume, is said to have had formal training with the same teacher that taught Fenellosa.

However, Pound continued to be interested in Noh even after the publication of “Noh”, or, Accomplishment, and later turned his focus to the ethics of Noh, and their political value on the international stage…he looked at Noh both as cultural patrimony that could be employed in order to persuade the United States not to attack Japan and as a vehicle for the transmission of a high form of civilization to what he considered to be the decadent Western tradition.

Here, Pellecchia refers to a “high form of civilization” as opposed to “high culture”, and claims that the Western tradition was considered to be “decadent” by Pound.

The turning point in his engagement with Noh occurred in April 1939, when Pound travelled to America with the intention of convincing President Roosevelt not to embark on war with Japan for economic reasons, but he returned to Rapallo in June without having accomplished much of this plan. However, during his stay in Washington, D.C., Pound visited the Museum of Modern Art, where he attended the projection of the Noh film Aoi no ue (1935), now thought to be the first sound film documenting a Noh play.

The date, April 1939, is the main point of note here.


Until Aoi no ue, Pound’s only exposures to Noh performance were the short chant and dance excerpts that Kume and Kōri had demonstrated for him and Yeats, most probably shimai, or excerpts of longer Noh plays that well-educated Japanese often learned as part of their school education.

As described below, Pellecchia subsequently contradicts the above assertion regarding “Pound’s only exposure to Noh performance.”


Aoi no ue was not Pound’s first encounter with Noh on film: he had already realized that “seeing and hearing” was crucial to a positive reception of Noh abroad ahead of his trip to Washington, when he watched Atarashiki tsuchi (“A New Land,” 1937), a German-Japanese propaganda film supporting the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, co-directed by Itami Mansaku (1900–1946) and Arnold Fanck (1889–1974), famous for his “mountain films” starring Leni Riefensthal. Atarashiki tsuchi, released in Japan in February 1937 and shortly after in Italy, where Pound saw it, as Mitsucho la figlia del samurai.

Pellecchia here declares that Pound had seen a film clip of Noh performance in a movie in 1937, blatantly contradicting himself with respect to the chronology of Pounds acts in relation to the above-posted quotes. 

That is to say, Pellecchia’s first assertion related to Pound’s “only exposure to Noh performance” “[before seeing the film] Aoi no ue” (“April 1939”: p. 505) is contradicted on p. 507, where Pellecchia notes that Pound had seen a Japanese propaganda film including a clip of a Noh performance in 1937 in Italy, approximately 2 years prior.

Accordingly, the question arises as to why Pellecchia would assert that the “turning point” for Pound with respect to Noh April of 1939, when the letter from which Pellecchia subsequently quotes (shown below) to tie together his chronologically aberrant narrative was writing a month earlier, on the 3rd of March in 1939, as shown on p.508.

…After seeing the film, Pound wrote to Kitasono on 3 March 1939: “I have (had strong) nostalgia for Japan, induced by the fragment of Noh in Mitsuco. If you can continue such films nothing in the West can resist. We shall expect you AT LAST to deliver us from Hollywood and unbounded cheapness.
Arguably, Pound appreciated this heavily didactic propaganda film for two reasons: first, his fascination for Noh was tinged with fantasizing for something he had never really experienced firsthand; secondly, he realized the potential value of Noh as a means of marketing Japan as an aesthetically and ethically good country on the international level.

As Pellecchia’s treatment gives short shrift to the thrust of Pound’s letter--and omits an important point--it is posted below in its entirety as seen on the page of the book cited by Pellecchia. 

It is apparent that Pound’s focus on film was specifically related to what he assailed as the “boundless cheapness” of Hollywood. Here, in contrast to Pellecchia’s assertion that Pound felt that the Western tradition was somehow inherently “decadent,” it would be more accurate to describe Pound’s position as one in which the Western tradition had been degraded due to the cheapness from Hollywood he assailed.

It can be seen on the above-posted page at the top (note quoted by Pellecchia) that Pound was also responding to Kitasono’s mentioning the fact that his poet colleagues who had been sent to the front line nevertheless

“wished to read books in high class rather than amusing books.”

Kitasono and Pound shared a concern related to the degradation of literary culture by publications intended merely for amusement, etc. Pound can be seen as anticipating the widely heard present day concern with ‘dumbing down’, which has been prevalent in academic discourse examining mass media culture, etc., since the 1980s, unles you want to go back to Marshall McLuhan’s book, “The Medium is the Message” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_medium_is_the_message), but that has a more specific focus. Pound was certainly interested in audio and visual recordings as means for transmitting Noh to the West, having experienced the multidimensional aspects of the performance of the plays, in addition to his literary interest in them.

In fact, it can be seen that Pound specifically addresses the music of the Noh in the subsequent sentence of the text of the letter quoted by Pellecchia, who chose to omit that important passage, where Pound states:

ALL the Noh plays ought to be filmed! or at any rate ALL the music shd! (sic) be recorded on the sound track.
It must be 16 years since I heard a note of Noh (Kume [Tam]) and his friends sang to me in Paris) but the Instant the Noh (all too little of It in that film) sounded I knew it.
It IS like no other music

The 1930s were a period of intense didactic production for Pound: in a sort of self-appointed duty to educate the world, Pound published the ABC of Economics (1933), the ABC of Reading (1934), Jefferson and/or Mussolini (1935), and Guide to Kulchur (1938), pamphlets whose recurring topic is a pragmatic approach to cultural production and its interrelation with economics and morals…
In the light of Pound’s pedagogic approach, it is comprehensible how he enjoyed Atarashiki tsuchi’s didacticism as a form of moral hammering that the “uncivilized West” much needed.
Here, Pellecchia draws his readers’ attention to several books he published in the deteriorating period of international relations that preceded the outbreak of WWII. In short, he insinuates that Pound was a didactic pedagogue, neglecting the fact that the bulk of his work related to poetry, culture criticism, etc., as well as politics addressed through a perhaps somewhat recondite style of poetry he dubbed Cantos for which he is perhaps best known. 

Furthermore, Pellecchia inserts a number of quotes, including "uncivilized West," which appear to  be referenced to footnote 42 in his paper, which cites p. 150 of the same book, "Pound and Japan": 

As can be seen on that page, however, the phrase "uncivilized West" does not appear. In fact, Pound calls for the preservation of Japanese texts in the same manner as classical Western texts from Greece and Rome by using modern technology. Pound also refers to masterworks of music in the Western tradition in the final paragraph in repeating in a more clear and prosaic manner the gist of his earlier letter to Kitasono in relation to Noh music and his desire for the entire repertoire to be recorded and transmitted to the West as a different form of masterwork. That essay appeared as an article in the Japan Times, incidentally, on the 15th of May, 1939: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2010/03/28/general/tri-lingual-system-proposed-for-world-communications/#.WH8-ZhuLSUk

In short, like many of the other pseudo-scholars whose fraudulent writings have been examined on this blog, Pellecchia takes Pound’s statements out of context and misrepresents them for political purposes.

For Pound, it seems clear that the primary emphasis was not on film per se, but on the transmission of culture. The Noh theater is anything but didactic, and there is no evidence that Pound was interested in the propaganda film other than with respect to the Noh clip. 

In fact, from the passage omitted by Pellechia it appears that it was the music that had alerted Pound to the fact that the Japanese/German propaganda film contained a short clip recording a Noh performance, implying that Pound was not even paying attention to the film until he heard the music of the Noh.

Moreover, the date of the letter written by Pound to Kitasono is the 3rd of March 1939, a month or more before he saw the filmed version of the Noh play Aoi no Ue in Washington D.C. in April of 1939 that Pellecchia claims was the turning point for Pound, implying that said turning point was somehow retroactively related to the content of his letter to Kitasono. 

Meanwhile, despite all of the above-described obvious errors, not to mention those that are readily apparent that have not been examined here in pedantic detail, Pellecchia was awarded a “prize” for his inaccurate paper, which essentially constitutes a form of disinformation, by the International Federation for Theatre Research: https://www.iftr.org/prizes.

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