Reviews — From the December 2013 issue

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Ezra Pound’s dictum “Make It New” has long been cited as modernism’s driving objective. Yet Pound, in coining the phrase, was actually drawing on his own (rather free) translation of a maxim associated with the ancient Chinese king Cheng Tang, which Pound first encountered via another translation, by the Scottish sinologist James Legge. (The original Chinese has something to do with replenishing or replanting tree shoots.) In 1950, the critic Hugh Kenner, writing in The Hudson Review, attributed the phrase to Pound alone, sweeping aside all surrounding context. So “Make It New” was itself made — but it wasn’t new.

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