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Usure et rupture - Breaking points

 | 
Claudine Raynaud
, 
Peter Vernon

Plus d'usure : Dante, Shakespeare, Pound, Derrida

Laurent Milesi

Texte intégral

  • 1 Les deux synthèses les plus importantes de cette trajectoire de l'usure sont : John T. Noonan, Jr. (...)
  • 2 Voir à cet égard les deux ouvrages exemplaires de Marc Shell, The Economy of Literature (Baltimore (...)
  • 3 Nous renvoyons aux travaux de Jean-Joseph Goux, en particulier Freud, Marx : Economie et symboliqu (...)

1Les écrits "littéraires" et/ou "critiques" pour ou contre l'usure n'ont cessé de jalonner la pensée occidentale du "commerce" entre les hommes1. Récemment, une certaine réflexion, plus ou moins directement nourrie du marxisme et de la déconstruction, s'est fait jour et, opérant par-delà les cloisonnements entre philosophie, littérature et psychanalyse (entre autres), a tenté de mettre à nu les convergences formelles qui, dans notre système occidental, régissent à la fois symbolisation et production linguistiques et économiques, ces transactions de type monétaire (dans un sens étendu) que la pensée fait avec elle-même2, ou bien de relier différents modes d'écriture (processus de signification) et le processus économique à une unique structure d'échange généralisé. Dépassant le strict cadre de l'économie, une telle logique d'équivalents, de remplacements, de représentations, etc. ou "logique dialectique du procès de symbolisation" envisagée dans son sens le plus large viendrait étayer le système socio-symbolique et fonder notamment la solidité des métaphores philosophiques3.

  • 4 Tradition qui s'inaugurerait avec Aristote (Politique), puis la scolastique médiévale (Guillaume d (...)
  • 5 Michel Foucault, " Qu'est-ce qu'un auteur ?", Bulletin de la Société française de Philosophie, vol (...)

2Faute de pouvoir suivre et démêler un à un les fils retors de cette tradition séculaire4, nous tenterons de tracer notre propre "généalogie" sélective, ayant pour témoin l'enchaînement d'épigraphes, afin de faire jouer en toile d'horizon problématique, par le biais de la traduction, de l'intertextualité, le phénomène d'usure dans l'appropriation de discours critiques relevée par Foucault dans son approche du statut de l'auteur5, et mesurer les enjeux tacites, mais aussi les effets, d'une telle appropriation critico-littéraire de textes et de discours en vue de la constitution et/ou validation d'une autorité (c'est en ce sens que Dante, mais aussi la récente critique portant sur son économie poétique, nous founira un point de départ exemplaire). Au-delà des analyses souvent "brillantes" tournant autour du résidu usuraire de la langue chez chacun des auteurs choisis --à l'exception, peut-être, de Derrida pour lequel le travail reste encore à faire --c'est donc une certaine mise en rapport d'une économie d'écriture à des cadres débordant les strictes limites du texte (la traduction, l'intertextualité, le discours critique se réclamant d'une autorité "fondatrice de discursivité") que nous avons voulu provoquer, par le frottement us (ur) ant d'une langue à l'autre dans cet essai lui-même bilingue (il aurait sans doute dû être trilingue pour faire honneur au poète italien), qui sait qu'il ne pourra pas, en fin de compte, échapper aux effets qu'il avancera prudemment à travers ses quatre études ainsi liées par plus d'un double bind.

3Circulant donc aussi librement que possible entre ces auteurs, en se servant de l'un pour lire (et le lier à) l'autre, cette démarche visera l'impossibilité d'user (de) l'usure comme "thème" (qu'on soit pour ou contre, même si on l'envisage sous un angle plus "neutre" (?) comme Derrida) sans relancer inlassablement ce double de surplus (usure) et d'effacement (usure) d'activité, de thésaurisation en plus ou en moins qui ne pourra être tranchée par la théorisation.

1. Solving Dante

"O sol che sani ogni vista turbata,
tu mi contenti sí quando tu solvi,
che, non men che saver, dubbiar m'aggrata.
Ancora, in dietro un poco ti rivolvi"
diss'io, "là dove di'ch'usura offende
la divina bontade, e'l groppo solvi".

  • 6 Dante, Inferno XI, 91-111.

"Filosofía" mi disse "a chi la 'ntende,
nota non pur in una sola parte,
come natura lo suo corso prende
dal divino intelletto e da sua arte;
e se tu ben la tua Fisica note,
tu troverai, non dopo moite carte,
che l'arte vostra quella, quanto pote,
segue, come 'l maestro fa il discente;
sí che vostr'arte a Dio quasi è nepote.
Da queste due, se tu ti rechi a mente
lo Genesí dal principio, convene
prender sua vita ed avanzar la gente;
e perché l'usuriere altra via tene,
per sé natura e la sua seguace
dispregia, poi ch'in altro pon la spene.
Ma seguimi oramai [...]6

4The eleventh canto of Dante's Inferno is a landmark in the poet's fictional peregrinations amidst various categories of sinners; from now on, Dante and his guide Virgil will encounter the denizens of the lower circles of Hell, punished for abusing God's gifts and infringing upon those divine or natural laws which dictate the norms of the relationships between man and God or between man and his peers. Among those "violent" sinners are the sodomites and the usurers, coupled together and identified by their respective cities ("Soddoma e Caorsa," 50), since they are both guilty of an unnatural crime; as the sodomite perverts the laws of genetic reproduction by preventing offspring, so do the usurers vitiate the circuitry of a healthy economics by not using money merely as a means of exchange between goods but rather by producing and increasing it at interest. In his answer to his pupil's request that he untie ("solvi") the knot, i. e. why usury offends Divine goodness, the Latin poet recalls as part of his demonstration the genealogy that "Filosofia" - for Dante, that of Aristotle, which props up the logico-fantastical universe of the Commedia, with particular reference here to the Physics -- has established. According to Philosophy, poetry ("your art") follows Nature, which is itself descended from the Godhead, just as the disciple walks in the footsteps of the Master (at the end of the argument, Virgil will direct Dante to follow him). Thus the usurer who, like the sodomite, subverts the laws of transmission and propagation, flouts both art and Nature herself, and sins against divine order.

  • 7 Or, according to Marx's convenient representation of Aristotle's distinction, the circle of normal (...)

5The accusation of unnatural filiation which is levelled against the usurers may be traced back to another Aristotelian argument: the denunciation of usurious practices in the Politics (1258b: 1-6). Resting his case on the double (literal and figurative) meaning of the Greek word tokos, offspring as well as interest, Aristotle distinguishes between a natural, economic generation and unnatural, usurious chrematistics; what makes the usurer's practices hateful is that he breeds money from money itself rather than from its natural object (wares). Thus tokos is applied to interest since the "offspring" of usury, begot against the purpose of exchange for which money was invented, unnaturally and, as it were, incestuously, resembles the parent7.

  • 8 Cf. also Inferno X, 114. See also Paradise VII, 22 (" ti solverò [...] la mente ") and 53-54, for (...)

6Virgil's "solution" of the Dantean knot is prefaced by his injunction to his disciple to pay close attention to the "sentenza," the phrasing as much as the sentence or verdict: "Se tu riguardi ben questa sentenza" (85). In the previous canto, a similar link and use had bound together an earlier occurrence of "solvere," there with "nodo" (a near synonym of "groppo" used in Canto XI), and "sentenza" (which rhymes with the "semenza" or seed of line 94): "[...] solvetemi quel nodo / che qui ha inviluppato mia sentenza" (95-96)8. Yet one might legitimately ask what kind of authority sanctions those various aspects -- the rightful filiation of God, nature and art, the improper unnaturalness of chrematistic generation tied to a rhetorical pun -- of the doctrine of Aristotle (who has been praised as the "maestro di color che sanno" in Inferno IV, 131), which Virgil explicitly or implicitly marshals into his logical demonstration on (un) binding genealogies while appealing to the poet's attention to rhetoric and judgment?

  • 9 See André Pézard, La Rotta Gonna : Gloses et corrections aux textes mineurs de Dante (Paris : Sans (...)
  • 10 Shell, The Economy of Literature, p. 104.

7In the Convivio, Dante had asserted that philosophy (like Nature in Canto XI) was the daughter of God, and in IV, vi, he had discussed the two etymologies (i. e. truthful linguistic foundations) of "author" and "authority" (glossed as "atto d'autore"), precisely in order to prove the authority of the Greek philosopher. The first derivation is the first-person-singular Latin verb auieo, a performative form meaning "I bind together" which combines the five vowels, "anima e legame d'ogni parole," in a figure of knot ("figura di legame"9) and which, together with the help of the second hypothesis, the Greek vocable autentin or "degno di fede e d'obedienza," enables Dante to establish the meaning of (Aristotle's) authority as an act worthy of faith and obedience. Thus the philosopher's authority is sealed by the figure of a performative knot or bond between Vowels, an expressive linguistic gesture that simultaneously makes the creative artist a trustworthy descendant of God's performative Word. A circuit of reciprocal exchange which grounds issues of esthetics and ethics in economics can be sketched here, by which Aristotle -- for whom the philosopher is an oikonomos who dispenses likenesses of impressions that he receives from nature10 -- is made to owe his authority, worthy of faith and obedience, to the poet's act of etymological (i. e. true) legitimization, a debt which will be settled later when, in the Commedia, the Latin poet turns to the philosopher's indisputable authority in order to authenticate the moral insolvency of the usurers (and sodomites) that wallow unabsolved in the eleventh canto of Hell.

8A last preliminary detour must be taken via three former critical positions, restricted to the Divine Comedy, on the economics of Dante's poetics, in order to map out the larger context of our own inquiry: Lisa Freinkel's arguably "deconstructive sublation" of a certain uncalculated maiming of usura in Joan Ferrante's conclusions on the relationship between language and commerce in her influential book-length study of Dante's political vision and in R. A. Shoaf s view of counterfeiting as the central issue of the Commedia in his comparative work on the referential currency of the word in Dante and Chaucer. Let us first, like Freinkel who uses them as her point of departure, recycle the exemplary closing statements of Ferrante's last chapter on "Exchange and Communication, Commerce and Language in the Comedy":

  • 11 Joan M. Ferrante, The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy (Princeton : Princeton UP, 1984), p. 3 (...)

Through his poetic language, Dante provides his audience with abundant "spiritual usury" ["which multiplies the benefits of God's gifts" (Ferrante, p. 317)] to counter the "corporal usury" of their world. He transcends the limitations of material values and goods as he moves through the Comedy by giving financial terms a metaphorical meaning, by turning the commercial perspective from profit and loss in money to gains in love and knowledge. Language provides the means to transform commercial thought, not by changing the words, but by changing the context and therefore the meaning. The treasure Dante offers the reader of the Comedy is not the face value of the individual words, which in themselves are true currency and amount to a substantial sum reckoned simply as poetry, but the meaning that lies beyond them, the moral, political, religious message of the ideal universal government whose stamp gives them authenticity and to whose enduring stability their values attests11.

  • 12 Lisa Freinkel, " Inferno and the Poetics of Usura," Modern Language Notes, vol. 107 (1992), pp. 3- (...)
  • 13 Freinkel, Op. cit., p. 5, n° 10.
  • 14 See R. A. Shoaf s Dante, Chaucer, and the Currency of the Word: Money, Images, and Reference in La (...)

9Freinkel diagnoses a kind of usury in this dialectics of metaphor and linguistic conversion -- "Dante's poetic transaction manages, somehow, to lose the loss inscribed in economic transaction" -- which is almost "a poetics of thievery" since it "lifts" the language of finance from its context. Canto XI is understood to thematize the recuperation of loss at the same time as Dante's poetry capitalizes on "the value of Hell itself, where the in-giuria of sin gains [...] the hatred of heaven" by the logic of a usurious contrapasso since it metes out a heavier tribute than would be strictly necessary to stamp out abuse, thereby generating a residual profit that defrays the poet for his labour.12 For Freinkel, the metaphorization of financial language that Ferrante sees at work in Dante's poetry is a usura miraculously freed from the erosive force which constitutes the double bind of its linguistic origin, according to Derrida's analyses of the usure of metaphor, whose findings -- especially his analogy between Hegel's Aufhebung and usura13 (see later) -- and "economic(al)" procedure (see later) she strategically (ab) uses for self-authentication (while also summoning, in passing, Marxian analogy, Hegelian dialectics, and, later, Heidegger's "ontology of metaphor"). Conversely, Shoaf s understanding of counterfeiting is said to "implicate usura's unrecuperable loss" insofar as counterfeiters are guilty of effacing the difference between exemplary original and falsified copy, and of debasing "the dynamics of analogy" ("as") into the fraud of "irreferent" metaphor.14 By a process of "economic (al)" reinscription which implicitly trades in discursive authorities -- the validating stamp of Derrida's finds and method -- both losses, the first "by excess" and the second "by default," are recuperatively taken up into the (now restored) "plenitude" of usura, and an "analogizing twist," not unlike the kind that Freinkel had pointed up in Ferrante's final statement about the poetic words receiving authentication from a moral, political and religious ideal beyond them, can be felt to shape a certain kind of forceful critical discourse, calling up in its wake issues of translation or metaphor as usury to which this study shall periodically circle back.

  • 15 See Ferrante, Op. cit., p. 330n for the scholastic connections between the expiation of sin in Pur (...)

10We shall now try to argue how Dante's castigation of usury is caught in the crossfire of the various textual moments seen above, which tacitly implement a transaction between authorities and filiations. Not only do the various requests in the Divine Comedy to dissolve, loosen, unbind the knot of a sentence or of Dante's doubts may eventually run counter, in their phrasing or judgment ("sentenza"), to the poet's reaffirmation, via his mentors (Virgil and Aristotle), of the filial bonds between God and art, via nature and/or philosophy (as master to disciple or father to son), but Dante's usual practice of keying his lexical choice to his theme -- here, the sin he is censuring -- also constitues an example, threatening in its specific configuration, of the technique of verbal usury or capitalization on language, whose contagious effects Dante's writing cannot fully negotiate. Or to put it differently, Dante's calculated poetics of stylistic adequation, at once rhetorical and economic (al), breeds a usurious surplus of semantic activity (and linkage), or rather a "negative interest" since it endangers the logic of Dante's esthetics and ethics at this particular juncture. Here solvere cannot dissolve its additional meaning of "to pay a debt," "to free from a (commercial) bond" that contaminates the principal (meaning) -- and which in no way cancels the larger interest gained in the transaction outlined earlier -- as (also) in Purgatorio XXIII, 15, where "solvere il nodo" designates the need for sinners to pay their debt to God in order to free themselves from the liability and binding nature of their sins.15 The cognate "knots" of the text -- the sinful knot which needs to be unbound, or doubt's knot which wants solving, as well as the figure of the artist's authority -- are tied into a semantically promiscuous family with the very bond of God's love in the last canto of Paradiso ("nodo," 91; cf. also "legato con amore," 86), marked by the conflation of the substances and accidents (88) of the Aristotelian system and dedicated to the abundance of divine grace (82; note another latent economic ring in "consunsi" on line 84), whose ineffable form Dante tries to mould in poetic language as best as is humanly permissible. This last "link" in the chain significantly occurs near the end of the Dantean project, which may be conceived as the approaching moment of reckoning, when the Italian writer is soon to be accountable to God himself for his linguistic creation; in Purgatorio XXIX, 97-99, which enlarges (on) the economic metaphor of spending verse ("spargo/rime"), Dante himself had established the principle of an equitable transaction whereby poetic expenditure should match a character's deserts.

  • 16 The penalty is mentioned in Inf XXVIII, 142, in connection with Bertran de Born who has his head s (...)

11Dante's text undergoes the economy of language, more specifically semantic contiguity, by which one cannot prevent the "solving" or expiation of knots and the strengthening or proclamation of lawful bonds from trading with each other, and the "negative interest" of Dante's conflicting "solutions" is the contrapasso -- the punishement by which the retribution is commensurate with the nature of the offence committed16 -- incurred by the Italian poet for his measured interest in the polysemic valencies of human language.

2. The Merchant of Venice and the issue of convertibility

  • 17 W. H. Auden, " Brothers and Others," The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays (London: Faber, 1948), p. 23 (...)

There is no reason to suppose that Shakespeare had read Dante, but he must have been familiar with the association of usury with sodomy of which Dante speaks in the Eleventh Canto of the Inferno. [...] It can, therefore, hardly be an accident that Shylock the usurer has as his antagonist a man (Antonio) whose emotional life [...] is concentrated upon a member of his own sex.17

  • 18 Shell, Money, Language, and Thought, p. 49 (see also p. 22).
  • 19 Shell, Money, Language, and Thought, p. 49.
  • 20 " In medieval Latin the verbal noun interesse came to mean a compensatory payment for a loss: if s (...)
  • 21 Thus, for instance, Shylock's cruel whim -- which he explains away as his humour, i. e. a gratuito (...)

12In his excellent study "The Wether and the Ewe: Verbal Usury in The Merchant of Venice," Marc Shell has profitably rehabilitated the category of verbal usury, used in jurisprudence, rhetoric and philosophy, which played an important technical role in the Jewish Talmud, the Christian church fathers and the Islamic traditions. Strictly speaking, the term "refers to the generation of an illegal -- the church fathers say unnatural -- supplement to verbal meaning by use of such methods as punning and flattering."18 Shell's study shows how verbal usury is at work in Shylock's linguistic manoeuvres as well as in underpinning the thematic structure of the whole play. Thus Antonio's words "I do never use it" (I. iii. 66), whose immediate context was the above mention of lending or borrowing upon advantage, "generate by a pun an argument that would enlarge any debate about'use'to include consideration of the human genealogy of 'Iewes' [...] and also the animal generation of 'ewes,'"19 thereby fusing the respective metaphorologies of the Hebrew and Greek conceptions about moneylending as these were handed down to the Renaissance through the Middle Ages. That is distinction, in the Mosaic Law, between Jews and non-Jews, or, in Auden's words, between brothers and others, and classification of human being according to economic status (Exodus 22: 25, Leviticus 25: 36-37, Deuteronomy 23: 19-20); and Aristotle's focus on breeding and the relationship between monetary, animal and human generation. Shylock uses the Biblical parable of Jacob grazing his uncle Laban's sheep as a digression upon the "natural" foundation of usury which would overcome traditional barriers between naturalness and unnaturalness, perhaps also as a reminder that the Jews were forced in the Middle Ages to become moneylenders because they were denied land ownership. Uninterested -- note the implicit etymological pun in his exasperated question: "And what of him? did he take interest?" (I. iii. 70)20 -- Antonio asks the Jew if his own "interest" is precisely "to make interest good" (I. iii. 89) while thus corrupting the value of natural fruit (overtones of the original sin may be detected in I. iii. 93: "A goodly apple rotten at the heart"), whereas the Christian himself never uses it (I. iii. 65). Words, therefore, become like coins, exchangeable or capitalizable tokens or counters which, if one knows how to use them sparingly, may guarantee to exceed their principal (meaning(s)) and, as we shall see, may be used as switchpoints establishing the transactionality of plots.21 Indeed, one may note in The Merchant of Venice, especially in the important scene I. iii, an excess of language, quantitatively (in the number of words) as well as "qualitatively" (in the periphrastic renderings), for "excess" itself in its meaning of "usury," from "usance" (l. 40) -- the more cleanly name for "usury" according to Sir Thomas Wilson's famous Discourse Upon Usury -- to "interest" (l. 46), "advantage" (l. 65), "breed" (l. 129), and to "excess" and "usury" themselves. Such a verbal excess, whose very lexical "interest" gambles away the gain of the semantic blurring between natural and unnatural forms of monetary reproduction, overriding the Christian (Antonio's) distinction between "good" and "bad" economic practices, even recirculates in the comic scene between blind father Gobbo and his son, in which Old Gobbo's description of himself as an "exceedingly poor man," supplemented by puns on "fructify" (instead of "certify") and on "Jew" (II. ii. 107-108), is set in the context of the father's failure to recognize his son -- it must also be remembered that Gobbo is about to change masters for material reasons -- as if to hint at a perversion in the (economic) lineage of Jews. Shakespeare's generous apportioning of double entendres and puns to Jews and Christians alike (see e. g. IV. i. 73-74 where Antonio avails himself of Shylock's former pun on "use" and "ewes") cuts across religious and economic "denominations" and creates a levelling excess of signification which, owing to the nature of his contractual debt to the original, a translator would be bound to, but equally bound to lose, as would no doubt also be the case with the Dantean knots and "solutions" (see later).

  • 22 One recalls that the test of choosing the right casket had involved the suitors to be bound by oat (...)
  • 23 Shell, Money, Language, and Thought, p. 55.

13Equally crucial and relevant is the fact that the essence, even the existence, i. e. the economy of Shakespeare's play as a comedy rests on the successful resolution or proper dénouement (either as binding or unbinding) of its chain of interconnected bonds: the marriage bond or "love's bonds" (II. vi. 6) between Portia and Bassanio,22 the bond of friendship between Bassanio and Antonio (cf. Portia's conceit in V. i. 136-137: "You should in all sense be much bound to him/For (as I hear) he was much bound for you"), and the commercial bond (but also a lifebinding commitment) between Antonio and Shylock ("Let him look to his bond," III. i. 42-44; see also III. iii) -- or, as Marc Shell sums up economically, the intricate plots of court and courtship.23

  • 24 See III. ii. 259-61 about the double bind/bond of Bassanio's " engagement," and also V. i. 245-56 (...)
  • 25 Sarah Kofman, Conversions : Le Marchand de Venise sous le signe de Saturne (Paris : Galilée, 1987) (...)
  • 26 See Shell's connection between Portia's promise of the " full sum of me " to her lover (III.ii.57) (...)
  • 27 For Shell, the plot is the largest literary trope which increments the " hypothetical letter [s] o (...)

14The denouement originates in the trial scene in IV. i when Portia, disguised in men's clothes, interposes herself between Shylock and Antonio and unbinds the Venetian merchant from the forfeit of a pound of flesh that Shylock, against his usual practice towards non-Jews, had nominated at the end of I. iii and which, owing to the imbrication of bonds and "engagements,"24 now stands between herself and her match with Bassanio. The somewhat unlikely handling of the whole trial is meant to expose the blind literality of Shylock's vengeful interpretation of the bond and Portia's stratagem is precisely to ensure that he has willingly bound himself to the letter; in seeking such a compensation, the Jew fails to capitalize on the wording of the bond for his own interests and make the letter fructify as a (verbal) usurer should, although one might equally argue that the resulting death that would befall Antonio should a pound of his flesh be levied certainly shows the creditor's demand to be a steep usurious one. This may prepare for the possibility of the Jew's conversion to Christianity as one of the penalties inflicted upon him. As Sarah Kofman concludes in her essay on The Merchant of Venice, the success of Shakespeare's play, "drame de la conversion sous toutes ses formes,"25 lies in the generalized principle of exchange and convertibility, between metals (the gold, silver and lead of the three caskets), religions (Jewish and Christian), sexes (travestying), animate (humans and/or animals26) and inanimate, and between the various plots,27 whose conflictual bonds must be un (tied) satisfactorily for the fulfilment of the comedy's requisites. And we might add, such a general economy of conversions must be waged, for its efficacity, on a fluid circulation of the polysemic valencies of words, loosened from any constrictive notion of "principal" or "additional" meaning.

3. Pound's capital (im) proprieties

  • 28 Social Credit: An Impact (London: Peter Russell, 1951), p. 6. For other couplings of usury with so (...)

Usury and sodomy the Church condemned as a pair, to one hell, the same for one reason, namely that they are both against natural increase. Dante knew this and said it. It is registered in The Merchant of Venice, where Shylock wants no mere shinbone or elbow, but wants to end Antonio's natural increase.28

  • 29 See Richard Sieburth, " Du poids de Pound : L'économie de la poésie/La poésie de l'économie," tran (...)
  • 30 Perhaps the first methodical attempt is Clark Emery's chapter on " Usury: Murrain and Marasmus " i (...)
  • 31 Note the title of Sieburth's article, in Rabaté's translation.
  • 32 Parker, Op. cit., p. 104. His methodological a priori is, precisely, Marc Shell's assumption that (...)

15What would somebody answering to the name of Ezra Pound have to say about or against the economy of love (sexual and between brothers or others) as much as the love of economy implied in a Jew's usurious demand of a "pound of flesh," whose consequences would far exceed the metonymic formulation to extend to the tribute of life itself? The implications of linking Pound's name to the crux of The Merchant of Venice go beyond those of a merely verbal usurious pun. For no other writer perhaps has endeavoured to fight against usury so ardently in order to restore and achieve generalized circulation, equivalence, convertibility, "translation" between poetry, economics, but also philosophy, history and politics,29 while inescapably underwriting a whole system, The Cantos as well as various pamphlets on economic and cultural matters, with the aporias of the (sign of a) name "P/pound" (£), capitalized if "proper," monetary if common. Indeed, the quest to uproot the versatile sin of usury provides such a strong thematic pivot on which the whole edifice of Pound's epic hopes to rest but which, arguably, causes it ultimately to founder that, to paraphrase Basil Bunting's homage in "On the Fly-Leaf of Pound's Cantos," a conference on "Usure/Rupture" or "Breaking points" -- I note in passing the translation's sheer obliviousness to the double bind in the French title -- would have had to go a long way round if it had wanted to avoid the American poet. In order to do justice to such a system, I would have to retrace, like so many critics before me,30 the (partly) chronological evolution of Pound's obsession as much as its thematic crystallizations. The following remarks can therefore only highlight "moments" in Pound's strategic failure to negotiate a balance between the accumulation and the spending of language, revealing the unthematizable residual interest d'une poésie de l'économie qui finit par faire l'économie de la poésie31 and -- in the words with which Parker announces his project of addressing the nature of the relationship between poetry, economics and anti-Semitism in Pound's system -- "seeking in the tropology of Pound's economic system certain'excessive'figures ('usury' and 'Judaism') which motivate (as well as undermine) both the 'economy' of this system and of the poetry in which it is inscribed."32

  • 33 See Casillo, " Troubadour Love and Usury in Ezra Pound's Writings," and Sieburth, Op. cit., p. 96.
  • 34 Selected Poems, pp. 57-63. Casillo (" Troubadour Love and Usury in Ezra Pound's Writings," p. 134) (...)

16The complex entanglement of poetry/poetics in economics starts as early as Pound's reading (and writing in the vein) of troubadour literature, not long before discovering C. H. Douglas's Social Credit in 1919 and, later, other economic theories, like Silvio Gesell's suggestive Natural Economic Order. The convertibility of time and desire, the element of (metaphorical) exchange between the erotic and the economic that implicitly underlay the troubadours' art, thus the non-neutral investment of the troubadour in his lady, have been read as usurious practices whose gain, for the lover, was the husband's loss, in an excess of pleasure which was commensurable with the time of its retention.33 Pound's own awareness of, or at least interrogations about, the capitalization on time and emotions for ultimate sexual possession, with the possible increment of a politico-economic supremacy, forms the thematic backbone of "Near Perigord," the first major poem of his early literary production, in which he tries, in a Dantean fashion, to "solve the riddle" of "the knot, the first knot, of Maent", i. e. whether Bertran is "bound about with love" or a schemer.34

  • 35 See Hyde's crisp parallel, Op. cit., p. 263.
  • 36 Sieburth, Op. cit. p. 99 (and also p. 117). See Shell's The Economy of Literature, pp. 90, 102, fo (...)

17The principle of economy is equally at work in Pound's set of three prescriptive imagist tenets35 against the excesses of contemporary poetic practices and, in spite of Pound's repeated fulminations against rhetoric (see later), the second precept in particular -- "To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation" -- has been aligned with the dispositio of classical rhetoric, the internal disposition of a literary work which Aristotle's oikonomia soon came to mean.36

  • 37 Selected Prose, p. 209 (" A Β C of Economics').
  • 38 Ernest Fenollosa, The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, With a Foreword and Notes (...)
  • 39 Compare with Fenollosa's " In this process of compounding, two things added together do not produc (...)

18That maximization or hoarding of sense and expressiveness in poetic thought quite logically led to the "ideogrammic method," which was defined as a process "of first heaping together the necessary components of thought,"37 in the light of Ernest Fenollosa's view that "Poetic thought works by suggestion, crowding maximum meaning into the single phrase pregnant, charged, and luminous from within"38 -- although the cumulative, rather than the relational, aspect arguably came to be emphasized.39

19Setting aside their chronological evolution, the endemic contradictions in the Poundian system may be, for the purpose of this study, conveniently and summarily explored in three interrelated configurations: the proper versus the capital; the usury of translation and intertextuality; Pound's liquidities or "plus de métaphore."

a) The (im)proper capital

  • 40 See e. g. Impact, p. 143, and Selected Prose, p. 203 (" A Β C of Economics ").
  • 41 Pleynet has ingeniously uncovered a contamination of the forename Ezra by usura, Pound's favourite (...)
  • 42 Or, in Sieburth's terms, between nomen and nummus (Op. cit., p. 111).
  • 43 In " The Erasure of History " (esp. p. 257), Maud Ellmann makes the connection between usury as er (...)
  • 44 Op. cit., pp. 173-82 and 234-41. For Pound's ideogrammic regulations of his own name on the cover (...)
  • 45 " Anti-Semitism, Castration, and Usury in Ezra Pound," p. 248. Thus, when Pound calls for an " ADE (...)
  • 46 For the etymological link between capital (Latin capitale : property, principal) and cattle, see E (...)
  • 47 Selected Prose, p. 100. One should spend some time analyzing the excessive vagueness of the statem (...)
  • 48 Maud Ellmann, " The Erasure of History," p. 244.
  • 49 Guide to Kulchur, p. 338. See also Selected Prose, p. 254 (" For a New Paideuma ") for the need of (...)
  • 50 For a similar argument, see Murray, Op. cit., p. 190.
  • 51 For a book-length study of Pound's debt to Dante, see James J. Wilhelm, Dante and Pound: The Epic (...)
  • 52 See Berezin, Op. cit., pp. 267-68.
  • 53 Compare with Fenollosa, pp. 13-14, quoted supra.
  • 54 See " Floating the Pound," pp. 26 and 27, n° 4, and cf. also James J. Wilhelm, The Later Cantos of (...)

20However Pound insists on regarding "property" and "capital" as separate terms,40 several recurrent practices undermine de facto the theoretical foundations of the distinction as they fail to negotiate the rapport between the property of a name, capitalized (Pound, but also Ezra41), and the commonality of a currency. This blurring of the boundary between the nominal and the numerary42 did not merely find its symptomatic release in various "unfortunate" coincidences of language but was also "cultivated," as critics have been only too keen to point out, allowing, as we shall see later, a generous helping of their own usurious, clever puns to inform and enforce their discourses. Thus, for instance, Pound resorted to the pound sign, instead of a row of X's, to cross out or "pound out,"43 or as a signature, an ambivalent "pound sign (ature)" which underwrote his first economic pamphlets, and Jean-Michel Rabaté has shown how the common monetary sign and symptom was eventually to be annexed into the ideogram of the poet's proper name.44 That this kind of reading -- the critic's but also Pound's -- is not merely a usurious interpretation which cheaply exploits the fortunes of languages and, as we shall see, translations is not only corroborated by biographical evidence (Pound's vivid childhood memories of his father's work as an assayer in the Mint in Philadelphia) but also attested in the uncanny ways in which Pound (de) capitalizes. Thus, as Robert Casillo shrewdly observes, by the middle of his career, Pound frequently subjects the Jews to decapitalization in writing, his linguistic way of cutting the Semitic down to size, perhaps decapitating it, "a linguistic gesture all the more striking since Pound, in his Fascist polemics and self-promotion, favors a 'capital' style."45 One could hoard similarly disquieting manifestations of that versatile capital symptom in the "Economics" Cantos, which can equally emphasize the capital sin and crime USURA, Latin capitals, give the stress in "REEsponsibility," pluralize, by a doubling of capitals, "YYour HHighness AA VV" (Altezze Vostre; Canto XLII), or bring out cattle's capital (in the bellowing of the left front ox, still in Canto XLII, which uncannily rearranges the capitals YYHHAAW seen above).46 Although he proclaims elsewhere that "the [decapitalized] Semitic is excess,"47 Pound himself capitalizes on the word usura "until it implicates all forms of exorbitance,"48 in an excess of equivalences that turn loose on himself his own recrimination that "Usurers will never encourage this game of making clear definitions,"49 and his predilection for Dante's term, as opposed to its English equivalent, does not merely register a thematic borrowing (see below) but is also a way of exploiting the two antithetical operations of an iniquitous surplus monstrously coupled with a corrosive wastage that the Italian, conveniently for Pound's "CONTRA NATURAM" argument, carries with it. The "Semitic" becomes blurred out of focus, as in the context for his use of "semiticly" in Guide to Kulchur (p. 185),50 and Pound's own condemnatory language ironically undergoes the law of "the beast with a hundred legs, USURA" (Canto XV), the pandemic metaphor, or yields to Dante's fraudulent Geryon, "Mistress of many tongues" (Canto LI),51 thus adhering to his symbolic vision of an undefinably flabby Jew rather than that of a phallic artist.52 Ez(usu) ra Pound ultimately names that excess with which the sign(ifier), proper and capital, is commodified with ever increasing returns as pound sign(ature) s. To echo again Maud Ellmann's economic (al) summary, the poet's name is "compounded"53 in all linguistic-economic practices and "The Cantos are themselves the pound that they abjure, at once expounding and impounding;" "while they propound the evils of usura, The Cantos also float the pound."54

  • 55 Shell has noted the parallel between " economic transference of property " and linguistic transfer (...)
  • 56 Usura was itself subjected to time's usurious increment of meaning, from the fruit charged for the (...)

21In reintegrating the much wished-for general circulation of commodities, Pound's name is ex-propriated, is forfeited as it is subjected as "£" to various regimens of translation,55 the vicissitudes of linguistic conversion normally reserved to a common noun like "usury" with which, therefore, it ironically aligns itself:56

  • 57 Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, ed. and intr. T. S. Eliot (London: Faber, 1954), p. 259.

I am myself known as Signore Sterlina to James Joyce's children, while the phonetic translation of my name into the Japanese tongue is so indecorous that I am seriously advised not to use it, lest it do me harm in Nippon (Rendered back ad verbum into our maternal speech it gives for its meaning, 'This picture of a phallus costs ten yen.' There is no surety in shifting personal names from one idiom to another.)57

  • 58 For a similar tension in Pound's Cantos, see Rabaté, Op. cit., pp. 141-82.
  • 59 See e. g. Alan Durant, Ezra Pound, Identity in Crisis : A Fundamental Reassessment of the Poet and (...)

22Such unauthorized conversions, which blur the referent in a most irreverent way,58 commit the capital impropriety of pricing the proper name, no longer a "surety" resisting translation, as a phallus in a foreign currency/language. Yet they are no worse than the ways in which Pound's self-translations arguably attest a filial disobedience as they flout the Name-of-the-Father or phallus; while echoing Dante's theme in Inferno XI that the usurer perverts nature and the letter (art), thus filiation, a similarly perverted son Ezra undermines the law of paternal nomination.59 What seems to be Pound's fatalistic condoning in the above quotation should alert us also to the possibility of usurious implications in his own idiosyncratic artistic practices of translating freely from originals, which have often been denounced by specialists and which I would now like to take up with the issue of intertextuality.

b) The usury of translation and intertextuality

  • 60 Such a problematic of translation could be useful in offering a new critical articulation of Dante (...)
  • 61 For the complex network shaped by these interconnected problems, see especially " Des tours de Bab (...)

23In his reading of Walter Benjamin's famous essay "The Task of the Translator" as well as in other writings which may be loosely associated with an ongoing reflection on the linguistic status of Joyce's Finnegans Wake, Jacques Derrida has brought out the (double) double bind involved in the contract of translation after Babel, i. e. how an "original" and its "filial" rendering stand in a mutual relationship of debt,60 especially towards the (un) translatable proper name of God (Babel), and how the task of the translator is at once an impossible but necessary assignment summed up economically in the German title of Benjamin's piece, "Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers," the task (Aufgabe) bound up with the renunciation or giving up (also Aufgabe), and itself illustrative of the translator's double bind.61

  • 62 See e. g. the network of semantic-etymological retranslation of " Monte " (dei Paschi) as a bank a (...)
  • 63 Literary Essays, p. 160 (my emphasis).

24Derrida's argument about the mutual debt in which the translator is involved can be profitably brought to bear on a discussion of the intertextual relationship that Pound's writings entertain with earlier inscriptions via translation. If one follows through such a logic, Pound can never hope to settle his debt of an intertextual loan since his acknowledgement of the source which he recycles and "fruits" for his own specific uses leaves the IOU unpaid as it reinscribes it, more often than not as the seal of a sanctifying authority, mainly in the (three) following forms: Pound acknowledges by borrowing a token word from the language of the original document, by minting a lexical "coinage" that lets through the original (in the Benjaminian spirit of what a translation should achieve), or by compounding (montage, splicing) "translation" (coinage, free rendering, etc.) and original in a surplus of textual activity.62 As he himself noted in his "Cavalcanti" essay, pressing an admired predecessor into the duty of implicitly validating his own practices: "For purpose of translation one has, as Rossetti remarks, to cut through various knots, and make arbitrary decisions;"63 the seeming "gratuity" (arbitrariness) of translation can only be "gained" precisely if one deliberately chooses to ignore such knots and double binds.

  • 64 For Pound's view that time is not money, see Selected Prose, pp. 211, 213 (" A Β C of Economics ") (...)
  • 65 One may see, for instance, Pound's poetics of parataxis and his use of abbreviations as ways of sa (...)
  • 66 Pound has also been seen as capitalizing on his pseudonyms or counterfeit names -- see Ellmann, " (...)
  • 67 Cf. Pound's Statement in A B C of Reading (London: Faber, 1951), p. 25: 'You do not accept a stran (...)
  • 68 Compare with Sieburth, Op. cit., p. 120, and with Derrida's reading of the surplus value and credi (...)

25Although Pound, in the purest tradition of the church fathers, inveighs against the usurious practice of selling time,64 which he tried to counteract in a poetics of linguistic economy,65 his writings exploit the accretional value held in store by earlier texts for any potential recycler, as time piles up intertextual layers and multiplies semantic possibilities. Thus he silently sets Aristotle's double logic of the tokos, withheld until it is grafted in "Addendum for C," to work on his parallel arguments about the black money from Florence corrupting the Monte dei Paschi and the "legitimization" of the "natural" lineage of Pietro de Medici as the official bastards of the secretary, Orazio della Rena (Canto XLIII); he blows up to excess, in his own "Hell" Cantos (XIV-XV), the excremental connotations of usury implicit in Dante or brings back into (inter) textual circulation, as the epigraph to his Canto XXXVIII, the counterfeit money of Paradiso XIX, 118 ("il duol' che sopra Senna/Induce, falseggiando la moneta");66 and the increments Shakespeare's use-ewes-Iewes with the ooze (Canto XIV) or canker/cancer of usura that taints the azure (Cantos XLV and LI). More generally, Pound's reiterated pleas that his impatient readers should defer judgment as to the efficacy of the structure and his vision of an earthly paradise until the Cantos were completed implied that his project was waged on such a structure of deferral and procrastination, that it was somehow written and had to be bought on the trust of Pound's name and literary credit,67 and that the temporality of Pound's epic uncannily reflected the capitalization on time that he accused usura of thriving on.68

c) Pound's liquidities: "plus de métaphore"

  • 69 Hudson Maxim, The Science of Poetry and the Philosophy of Language (1910), p. 95, which Pound revi (...)

By long use, many metaphors have long lost their original material significance. [...] When a figure has become so useworn and hackneyed as no longer to awaken any awareness of the fact that it is a metaphor, then it has ceased to be a figure of speech, and has become literal. When a metaphor no longer enlists the imagination and requires translation in the mind from the figure to the literal, then it has become literal.69

  • 70 See e. g. Canto LII, Selected Prose, p. 146, mentioned above, and Guide to Kulchur, p. 357: " Natu (...)
  • 71 For the latter, see Rabaté, Op. cit., pp. 217-18, who analyzes Pound's observations in the Postfac (...)
  • 72 See e. g. Selected Prose, pp. 244, 246, 251, and Impact, pp. 142-3.
  • 73 See Rabaté, Op. cit., especially pp. 196-97.
  • 74 The phrase is borrowed from Lewis Mumford's The Myth of the Machine, vol. I: Technics and Human De (...)
  • 75 In one of his war talks on the Fascist radio (30 April 1942), Pound had condemned nineteenth-centu (...)

26I have characterized Pound's overall project as an attempt to restore a general flow of exchange and such an "economy," which was geared towards the promotion of natural "production" and abundance (for Pound, credit ultimately rests on an abundance of nature70), made special provisions for a healthy flow of money and sperm.71 However, in several of the "Economics" Cantos, usura's "ooze" constitutes a liquid (ity) which threatens the flow of positive "use" which, like interest (canto CXIII), (Nature's) increase (Canto LI) or "the increment of association,"72 Pound tries to preserve at great cost, though inconsistently ("interest" in Canto L) as the valorized terms of a natural exchange, despite an obvious excess of words for that principle of healthy increment or the obfuscation of a single definable meaning by a usurious pun. In "interest"73 for instance, the pun lies between (inter-) semantic principal and surplus, and its own increment of association performs a work comparable to the intermeddling of corrosive and profligate usura, generates an abusive "embastardized cross-breed" not unlike the coined "merdery" of Metternich in Canto L. Either a felicitous logopoeic device, a "linguistic economy of abundance,"74 used to concentrate polysemy and increase the ideogrammic potential of a text, or a usurious trick obscuring a clear message, the pun visibly helps to uncover the aporias of Pound's "poetic economy." It is worth reassessing in this light his Dantean denunciation of the venal betrayers of perverters of language and of the obfuscation of texts with philology by "retentive" critics (as in Canto XIV, fraught with anal imagery),75 as well as his comparison of the misuse of language to the neglect of one's offspring:

  • 76 Literary Essays, p. 77, where Pound also refers the reader to " How To Read " and A Β C of Reading

"[Language] [u] sed" to conceal meaning, used to blur meaning, to produce the complete and utter inferno of the past century [...] against which, SOLELY a care for language, for accurate registration by language avails. And if men too long neglect it their children will find themselves begging and their offspring betrayed.76

  • 77 Like usury, which, as we have seen, never encourages clear definitions, rhetoric blurs precision " (...)
  • 78 Pound's position is pithily summarized in his last invective against usury in " Addendum for C :" (...)
  • 79 The unrestricted process of symbolic convertibility which we observed in The Merchant of Venice ca (...)
  • 80 See e. g. Pound's introduction to the sonnets and baílate of Guido Cavalcanti in his Translations,(...)
  • 81 See e. g. the heliocentric tendency of Pound's metaphorological system, which has been analyzed by (...)
  • 82 See especially Hyde, Op. cit., pp. 262, 265, Parker, Op. cit., p. 107, and Stephen Hartnett, " The (...)

27It should be clear by now that, notwithstanding Pound's animus against metaphor or any of the rhetorical77 tropes that made up the ornamental stock-in-trade of the contemporary poet,78 his general theory of circulation and exchange necessarily entailed a generalized process of figuration which, since anything was potentially equatable with, translatable into, or representable as something else, was also a general economy of disfiguration.79 It might be argued that the constantly threatened demarcation between illegitimate usury and natural use could be seen as the regulator of Pound's distinction between the "absolute metaphor," the just increment of language kept within the limits of "propriety" which organizes the ideogram,80 and the loose, decorative practice of conventional rhymesters. Yet Pound's ethics and aesthetics --traditional insofar as they took for granted and rested on the hierarchical divide between nature/legitimacy and artificiality/illegitimacy illegitimacy/metaphor81 -- were marred by a desire, forgetful of the fact that the essence of language is to be also a figure and figuration of the real, to close off the play of difference between sign or symbol (language) and object (real),82 and eventually entailed, if one is willing to follow through the implications of such aporias, a revolt against the "nature" of writing and even language as such, which was certainly instrumental in the collapse of his Po (u) nderous book, "Outre la livre pondérable" (Canto XCVII), into silence and a lack of cohesion.

4. Jacques Derrida ou la solution économique ?

  • 83 Glas (Paris: Denoël/Gonthier, 1981), vol. 2, p. 340 (page de gauche).

Le mouvement annulaire re-streint l'économie générale (compte tenu, c'est-à-dire non tenu de la perte) en économie circulante. Le resserrement, la restriction économique forme l'anneau du même, du retour à soi, de la réappropriation.83

28A son tour, en Juif, philosophe -- donc, nous l'avons entrevu, économ(ist)e -- comment Derrida va-t-il traiter de/avec l'usure ? Dans sa brillante analyse intitulée "La Mythologie blanche : La métaphore dans le texte philosophique" Jacques Derrida part d'une lecture du Jardin d'Epicure d'Anatole France, à la fin duquel il est question de l'économie tropologique de la figure de l'usure, pour déboucher sur une étude systématique du rôle de la métaphore dans le champ philosophique à la fois comme effacement de la figure à l'origine et surplus restant de cet oubli initial, donc du lien indissociable entre l'usure de la métaphore et la métaphore de l'usure, dans un mouvement de va-et-vient entre deux pôles dont on repérera la configuration isomorphique dans le passage suivant, centré sur l'activité de la métaphore :

  • 84 Jacques Derrida, " La Mythologie blanche," Marges de la philosophie (Paris: Minuit 1972), p. 261.

Si l'on voulait concevoir et classer toutes les possibilités métaphoriques de la philosophie, une métaphore, au moins, resterait toujours exclue, hors du système : celle, au moins, sans laquelle ne serait pas construit le concept de métaphore ou, pour syncoper toute une chaîne, la métaphore de métaphore. Cette métaphore en plus, restant hors du champ qu'elle permet de circonscrire, s'extrait ou s'abstrait encore de ce champ, s'y soustrait donc comme métaphore en moins. En raison de ce que nous pourrions intituler, par économie, la supplémentarité tropique, le tour de plus devenant le tour de moins, la taxinomie ou l'histoire des métaphores philosophiques n'y retrouverait jamais son compte.84

29Le dévoilement d'une appropriation intéressée de la poésie par la philosophie, dont la fructification se fait au pro rata de l'épuisement de la poésie, celle-ci perdant en poétique ce que la philosophie y gagne en philosophique, serait à rapprocher de la double transaction poundienne, entrevue plus haut, par laquelle le texte peut perdre en poésie ce qu'éventuellement il gagne en économie, dans un chassé-croisé de type précisément "économique" qui donc fausse le rapport. Le deuxième extrait, l'une des clés de voûte de l'exergue peu après l'ouverture de l'analyse, montre au passage les problèmes de traduction que l'usureaussi, nous l'avons vu, la double usura poundienne -- ainsi conçue peut susciter :

  • 85 Derrida, " La Mythologie blanche," p. 250.

l'histoire de la langue métaphysique se confondrait avec l'effacement de son efficace et l'usure de son effigie. [...] on peut déchiffrer la double portée de l'usure : l'effacement par frottement, l'épuisement, l'effritement, certes, mais aussi le produit supplémentaire d'un capital, l'échange qui, loin de perdre la mise, en ferait fructifier la richesse primitive, en accroîtrait le retour sous forme de revenus, de surcroît d'intérêt, de plus-value linguistique, ces deux histoires du sens restant indissociables.85

  • 86 On se reportera aux prières d'insérer qu'arbore sur le rabat de la couverture tout ouvrage paru da (...)
  • 87 " La Mythologie blanche," p. 256. Cf. aussi p. 257 : " L'inscription du numéraire est le plus souv (...)

30Si, comme nous venons de le voir, Pound croit naïvement pouvoir se débarrasser du tour toujours en trop de la rhétorique usuraire qui mine le poétique--n'est-ce pas en ce sens qu'il a tenté de repenser les pratiques mêmes de la métaphore et de la traduction ?--le projet de la déconstruction (au-delà des analyses de Derrida portant ici sur le double bind de l'usure (et) de la métaphore dans le champ philosophique et visant implicitement à déjouer le rapport d'autorité et/ou de filiation entre philosophie et poésie), avec sa pratique d'écriture rigoureuse s'efforçant de calculer "en effet"86 la structure d'excès, cette propriété intrinsèque à tout texte ou à toute langue (ce que Derrida a appelé par ailleurs la logique du supplément ou loi de supplémentarité) qui piège quelque forme discursive prétendant pouvoir maîtriser son statut rhétorique, constitue, à première vue, un garant d'absolution contre de tels "effets en retour" méthodologiques. Contrairement à Pound, Derrida serait donc "conscient"--et son écriture le "traduirait"dans la mesure du possible--que les paradigmes de la monnaie et du métal se sont imposés avec vigueur pour signifier le procès métaphorique, mais aussi que "Avant que la métaphore-effet de langage--ne trouve sa métaphore dans un effet économique, il a fallu qu'une analogie plus générale organisât les échanges entre les deux régions."87

  • 88 Voici rompue la logique usuraire du titre, copiée sur l'une des approches les plus lapidaires de l (...)
  • 89 Voir, en traduction uniquement, l'entretien de Christie V. McDonald avec Jacques Derrida intitulé (...)
  • 90 Jacques Derrida, " La différance," Marges de la philosophie (Paris : Minuit, 1972), p. 18.

31Seulement, ne pourrions-nous pas retraduire le geste critique opéré précédemment sur Dante et Pound notamment, qui avait permis de relever chez l'un le revenu lexical comme retour (return(s)) indésirable d'enjeux stylistico-thématiques et, chez l'autre, l'économie ingérable d'un (e) sign (atur) e ou nom (im) propre et capital minant incontrôlablement l'intérêt produit du double échange entre économie et poésie ? Dans son calcul et inscription différante des effets de l'échange généralisé entre le linguistique et l'économique, l'écriture de la déconstruction--cette traduction supplémentaire, et donc déjà en quelque sorte (ab) usuraire, de la Destruktion heideggerienne--n'a-t-elle pas intérêt à être précisément "économique" puisque ses tour (nure) s bifaces donnent justement un moyen de prendre en compte et de gérer l'usure à la fois-- donc doublement-comme effacement (plus de : -) et comme surplus (plus de : +), produisant ce que je me risque à appeler, faute de mieux, un plus (d' ?) économique ?88 Dans sa tentative de déplacer la limite des cloisonnements classiques entre, par exemple, le propre et le figuré, mais aussi dans sa fine critique de l'étymologisme, du propre et de la propriété, etc., la "choréographie"89 derridienne, dont, au-delà même de (ou grâce à ?) ses différents régimes, on reconnaît toujours la marque, n'entraîne-t-elle pas elle aussi, inévitablement, sa réassignation au compte du propre, dans une formule du genre : ce style, cette démarche, etc., est propre à Derrida, se distinguant par exemple des pâles contrefaçons anglo-saxonnes, y compris au sens de ce qui ironiquement a fait sa fortune à l'étranger, là où les impossibilités de la traduction -- celles des régimes économiques et usuraires qui lui sont propres -- en déplacent immanquablement les enjeux ? Prenons pour témoin ce passage crucial tentant d'articuler cette "économie mixte" de la différance comme l'économie du même qui n'est pas l'identique :90

  • 91 Cette " mise en rapport " d'une économie restreinte " ne faisant aucune part à la dépense sans rés (...)
  • 92 Ibid., pp. 20-21. On aimerait pouvoir s'attarder davantage sur ce qui " différencie " précisément (...)

Comment penser à la fois la différance comme détour économique qui, dans l'élément du même, vise toujours à retrouver le plaisir ou la présence différée par calcul (conscient ou inconscient) et d'autre part la différance comme rapport à la présence impossible, comme dépense sans réserve, comme perte irréparable de la présence, usure irréversible de l'énergie, voire comme pulsion de mort et rapport au tout-autre interrompant en apparence toute économie ? Il est évident -- c'est l'évidence même -- qu'on ne peut penser ensemble l'économique et le non-économique, le même et le tout-autre, etc. [...] Par cette mise en rapport de l'économie restreinte et de l'économie générale91 on déplace et on réinscrit le projet même de la philosophie, sous l'espèce privilégiée du hégélianisme. [...] Contrairement à l'interprétation métaphysique, dialectique, "hégélienne", du mouvement économique de la différance, il faut ici admettre un jeu où qui perd gagne et où l'on gagne et perd à tous les coups.92

32Cette "évidence même," bien qu'impensable, est présentée en effet, et cette "usure" irréversible, "perte irréparable" ou dépense anéconomique qui viendrait rompre "en apparence" toute économie semble être ici cette "économie" même que l'écriture biface fait du surplus en ce point précis.

  • 93 Voir Christopher Johnson, System and Writing in the Philosophy of Jacques Derrida (Cambridge : CUP (...)
  • 94 " Ce motif de la circulation peut donner à penser que la loi de l'économie est le retourcirculaire (...)
  • 95 Voir notamment Donner le temps, p. 41 (se référant aux travaux de Marcel Mauss), pour le contrat u (...)
  • 96 Processus d'échange que nous aimerions tacitement mettre en parallèle avec cette observation de Je (...)

33Là encore, il ne faudrait pas voir dans cette interprétation un peu hâtive--car le temps n'est pas donné naturellement au critique mais bel et bien compté-de la solution derridienne un simple effet d'usure verbale gratuite, ni de traduction (du genre : cette critique n'est propre que dans la langue "d'origine"--qui, d'ailleurs, n'est pas toujours le français pour Jacques Derrida), sans y voir justement une manifestation de l'usure inhérente au phénomène même de lecture, d'écriture, d'interprétation, de traduction, particulièrement active lorsqu'il s'agit de plus, comme pour une certaine "critique théorique" d'obédience déconstructionniste, de vouloir transplanter l'effet d'une force et d'une forme signifiantes qui, à les mimer par la tra(-)duction, ne peuvent que donner lieu à un discours dérivé trahissant le modèle dont elle prétendait s'autoriser.93 C'est du moins la thèse qui m'aura en partie servie de point de départ et sur laquelle je voudrais "conclure," dans un retour circulaire, pour ainsi dire à la maison (économique) -- l'espace entre philosophie, économie et littérature (poésie) ici traversé nous ramenant à Dante -- selon la structure odysséique de la loi de l'économie que Jacques Derrida lui-même a soulignée par ailleurs94 dans ses belles analyses du double bind d'un don (im) possible à travers une lecture de "La fausse monnaie" de Baudelaire,95 et qui fait qu'on ne peut sans doute pas faire l'interprétation de l'usure sans faire d'usure interprétative.96

Notes

1 Les deux synthèses les plus importantes de cette trajectoire de l'usure sont : John T. Noonan, Jr., The Scholastic Analysis of Usury (Cambridge, MA : Harvard UP, 1957) et Benjamin Nelson, The Idea of Usury: From Tribal Brotherhood to Universal Otherhood, 2ème ed. (Chicago : U of Chicago P, 1969 [orig. : Princeton, NJ : Princeton UP, 1949]).

2 Voir à cet égard les deux ouvrages exemplaires de Marc Shell, The Economy of Literature (Baltimore : Johns Hopkins UP, 1978) et Money, Language, and Thought: Literary and Philosophical Economies from the Medieval to the Modern Era (Berkeley : U of California P, 1982).

3 Nous renvoyons aux travaux de Jean-Joseph Goux, en particulier Freud, Marx : Economie et symbolique (Paris : Seuil, 1973) et Les monnayeurs du langage (Paris : Galilée, 1984).

4 Tradition qui s'inaugurerait avec Aristote (Politique), puis la scolastique médiévale (Guillaume d'Auxerre, St Thomas d'Aquin, etc.) et l'Enfer de Dante, passerait ensuite par la Renaissance - Luther (" Von Kaufshandlung und Wucher "), Calvin (De Usuris Responsum), Thomas Wilson (A Discourse Upon Usury, 1572), Marlowe (Le Juif de Malte, 1589), Shakespeare (Le Marchand de Venise, 1596) et Bacon (" Of Usury ", 1625) - Bentham (Defence of Usury, 1747) et le courant utilitariste, et, plus près de nous, les fulminations poundiennes dans divers textes au genre incertain, pour déboucher sur la brillante analyse que fait Jacques Derrida dans " La Mythologie blanche : La métaphore dans le texte philosophique " (1971) de la double face de l'usure, celle aussi de la métaphore dans le discours philosophique.

5 Michel Foucault, " Qu'est-ce qu'un auteur ?", Bulletin de la Société française de Philosophie, vol. 63, n° 3 (1969), pp. 73-104.

6 Dante, Inferno XI, 91-111.

7 Or, according to Marx's convenient representation of Aristotle's distinction, the circle of normal economic exchange C-M-C is perverted into M-C-M when money is bred from money. See Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, ed. Maurice Dobb, trans. S. W. Ryazanskaya (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970), p. 137n, who further notes that the two types of circulation were contrasted with each other by Greek tragedians, especially Euripides. See also Shell, The Economy of Literature, pp. 93-94 (and p. 95 ff. for a brilliant reading of the sexual-economic motif of incest in Oedipus Tyrannus).

8 Cf. also Inferno X, 114. See also Paradise VII, 22 (" ti solverò [...] la mente ") and 53-54, for other instances of Dante's use of the metaphor solvere il nodo for the untying of doubt's knot (or in conjunction with anger in Purgatorio XVI, 24).

9 See André Pézard, La Rotta Gonna : Gloses et corrections aux textes mineurs de Dante (Paris : Sansoni et Didier, 1967), vol I, pp. 237-60.

10 Shell, The Economy of Literature, p. 104.

11 Joan M. Ferrante, The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy (Princeton : Princeton UP, 1984), p. 379.

12 Lisa Freinkel, " Inferno and the Poetics of Usura," Modern Language Notes, vol. 107 (1992), pp. 3-10 (from which the quotations have been extracted), and also pp. 16-17 on labour.

13 Freinkel, Op. cit., p. 5, n° 10.

14 See R. A. Shoaf s Dante, Chaucer, and the Currency of the Word: Money, Images, and Reference in Late Medieval Poetry (Norman, OK : Pilgrim Books, 1983), esp. p. 32: "[Some sons of Adam] make signs so like the original that it is impossible to tell the difference between sign and original. Thus they corrupt reference itself, for reference respects difference -- and there, of course, is the ground of the analogy between language and money. [...] A counterfeiter [...] damages the already mutable sign by rendering it 'irreferent' [...]. A counterfeit or 'irreferent' sign is a false image because it is identical with its exemplar and thus disdainful of 'as'" Such a (double) effacement, Freinkel argues, is precisely the movement of meaning itself, which erases/loses the thing-in-itself, then the sign of (the simulacrum of) difference, i. e. " as " or " the improper name of trope, the concealed metaphor for metaphor." The argument against Shoaf can be followed in its complexities on pp. 10-13 of her article.

15 See Ferrante, Op. cit., p. 330n for the scholastic connections between the expiation of sin in Purgatory and the settlement of a debt.

16 The penalty is mentioned in Inf XXVIII, 142, in connection with Bertran de Born who has his head severed for having sown strife between father and son and tried to separate them. Pound translates Dante's term, itself borrowed from Aristotelian and scholastic terminology, as " counterpass " in his own evocation of the Provençal troubadour in " Near Perigord " (Selected Poems (London: Faber, 1975), p. 58 ; see also The Spirit of Romance (London: Peter Owen, 1952), p. 45). See also Ferrante, Op. cit., p. 354, who reminds us that Aquinas had noted a similarity of purpose between money and the commutative justice of the contrapassum.

17 W. H. Auden, " Brothers and Others," The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays (London: Faber, 1948), p. 231.

18 Shell, Money, Language, and Thought, p. 49 (see also p. 22).

19 Shell, Money, Language, and Thought, p. 49.

20 " In medieval Latin the verbal noun interesse came to mean a compensatory payment for a loss: if someone loses something [...] I have an " interest " in, then he pays me my interesse to make good the loss "; Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (New York: Random House, 1979), p. 123.

21 Thus, for instance, Shylock's cruel whim -- which he explains away as his humour, i. e. a gratuitous, unmotivated fancy -- to exchange three thousand ducats for a weight of carrion flesh in IV. i. 41-42 recycles the metaphorical equation between the deceptively seductive appearance of Portia's golden casket and its intrinsic worthlessness (II. vii. 63: " carrion Death "). One will also remember that Shylock's daughter and her lover had taken a casket with them in their elopement (II. vi. 33).

22 One recalls that the test of choosing the right casket had involved the suitors to be bound by oath not to seek marriage afterwards, should they fail in their venture (see II. i. 40-42).

23 Shell, Money, Language, and Thought, p. 55.

24 See III. ii. 259-61 about the double bind/bond of Bassanio's " engagement," and also V. i. 245-56 in connection with the credit of Bassanio's perjured oath and double dealing.

25 Sarah Kofman, Conversions : Le Marchand de Venise sous le signe de Saturne (Paris : Galilée, 1987), pp. 68-69.

26 See Shell's connection between Portia's promise of the " full sum of me " to her lover (III.ii.57) and Shylock's " fulsome ewes " in I. iii. 81 (Money, Language, and Thought, p. 59).

27 For Shell, the plot is the largest literary trope which increments the " hypothetical letter [s] of hypothecation " (Antonio's bond to Shylock) and is relayed by the puns or smallest verbal tropes (Money, Language, and Thought, p. 184).

28 Social Credit: An Impact (London: Peter Russell, 1951), p. 6. For other couplings of usury with sodomy, see e. g. Canto LXXVII (" interest on all it creates out of nothing/the buggering bank has ;" The Cantos of Ezra Pound (London : Faber, 1975), p. 468); Selected Prose 1909-1965, ed. and intr. William Cookson (London : Faber, 1973), p. 146 ; Impact : Essays on Ignorance and the Decline of American Civilization, ed. and intr. Noel Stock (Chicago : Henry Regnery Company, 1960), p. 233; and the mention of the " sodomitical usurer " in a letter to Ernest Hemingway, 28 November 1936 (The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound 1907-1941, ed. D. D. Paige (London : Faber, 1950), p. 283). For other instances of Pound's monolithic reading of the Bard's more ambivalent position on usury, see also Guide to Kulchur (London : Peter Owen, 1952), p. 149, and Selected Prose, pp. 247, 317.

29 See Richard Sieburth, " Du poids de Pound : L'économie de la poésie/La poésie de l'économie," trans. Jean-Michel Rabaté, Poésie, vol. 51 (1989), p. 110.

30 Perhaps the first methodical attempt is Clark Emery's chapter on " Usury: Murrain and Marasmus " in his Ideas into Action: A Study of Pound's Cantos (Coral Gahles: U of Miami P, 1958), pp. 47-69, which is flawed by his attempt to " save " Pound from the accusation of plain anti-Semitism by showing the ambivalence of the poet's condemnation of usury and the (hypothetical or unsustained) distinction between the Jew as a race and as an individual. Among the earlier studies of Pound's economics, one should also note Hugh Kenner's " Ezra Pound and Money," Agenda, vol. 4, n° 2 (October/November 1965), pp. 50-55, and Εarle Davis's somewhat unreliable Vision Fugitive : Ezra Pound and Economics (Lawrence : UP of Kansas, 1968). More recently, the best studies that have focused on usury and connected issues (anti-Semitism, economics, etc.) include, in alphabetical order: Charles Berezin's " Poetry and Politics in Ezra Pound," Partisan Review, vol. XLVIII, n° 2 (1981), pp. 262-79 ; Robert Casillos " Anti-Semitism, Castration, and Usury in Ezra Pound," Criticism, vol. XXV, n° 3 (Summer 1983), pp. 239-65, and " Troubadour Love and Usury in Ezra Pound's Writings," Texas Studies in Literature and Language, vol. 27, n° 2 (Summer 1985), pp. 125-53 ; Maud Ellmann's " Floating the Pound: The Circulation of the Subject of The Cantos, Oxford Literary Review vol. 3, n° 3 (Spring 1979), pp. 16-27, and Ezra Pound: The Erasure of History," Post-Structuralism and the Question of History, eds. Derek Attridge, Geoff Bennington and Robert Young (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987), pp. 244-62; David Murray's " Pound-Signs: Money and Representation in Ezra Pound," Ezra Pound and History, ed. Marianne Korn (University of Maine [Orono]: The National Poetry Foundation, 1985), pp. 173-97; Peter Nicholls's Ezra Pound: Politics, Economics and Writing (London: Macmillan, 1984); Andrew Parker's " Ezra Pound and The 'Economy' of Anti-Semitism," Boundary 2, vol. XI, n° 1-2 (Fall/Winter 1982/3), pp. 103-28; Jean-Michel Rabaté's Language, Sexuality and Ideology in Ezra Pound's Cantos (London: Macmillan, 1986), esp. pp. 183-241; Sieburth's essay in translation footnoted above; and Ram A. Yadav's " Pound and Politics," Arab Journal for the Humanities, vol. 27, n° 7 (Summer 1987), pp. 302-13.

31 Note the title of Sieburth's article, in Rabaté's translation.

32 Parker, Op. cit., p. 104. His methodological a priori is, precisely, Marc Shell's assumption that there is a " formal similarity between linguistic and economic symbolization and production " (The Economy of Literature, p. 7). Nicholls resists the loose homology between money and language on the basis of its striking absence in most of Pound's own writings (Op. cit., p. 191), though this in itself is not enough to overrule Shell's observation, in The Economy of Language, p. 93 and note, that Pound confuses " the relation between the (economic and chrematistic) problem of the just price and the (philosophic and rhetorical) problem of the mot juste." We shall briefly come hack to the complicity between rhetoric and usurious chrematistics.

33 See Casillo, " Troubadour Love and Usury in Ezra Pound's Writings," and Sieburth, Op. cit., p. 96.

34 Selected Poems, pp. 57-63. Casillo (" Troubadour Love and Usury in Ezra Pound's Writings," p. 134) and Sieburth (Op. cit., p. 96) record the first mention of usury (" golden usuries ") in an earlier poem published in 1910, " Octave," written in pseudo-troubadour style, whose thematic context -- the " material " enjoyment of love and beauty -- is also reminiscent of Shakespeare's sonnets 4 and 6, which deplore the sterile refusal to spend natural beauty (e. g. in the act of begetting children) as a usurious (avaricious) retention of goods. In The Merchant of Venice, Bassanio had likewise commented on the invaluable prize of beauty that words cannot render (III. ii. 127-130), and, in turn, Portia had " translated " into a commercial inventory of her (lack of adequate) attributes and " possessions " (ll. 153-58) the contractual obligation to marry her and thus form a household (in Greek: oikos, hence " eco-"), which are the logical consequences of Bassanio's choise of the appropriate casket.

35 See Hyde's crisp parallel, Op. cit., p. 263.

36 Sieburth, Op. cit. p. 99 (and also p. 117). See Shell's The Economy of Literature, pp. 90, 102, for a discussion of oikonomia in that context, and p. 92, for Aristotle's ambivalent view of poetry as either an economic or a chrematistic production. Aristotle's mixed feelings about the nature of poetic production may be seen ironically in the light of Pound's approval of his denunciation of chrematistics as unnatural (Guide to Kulchur, p. 311, refers to the Nicomachean Ethics, I. v. 8, to that effect,), as opposed to the sound economics of a house of good stone (cf. Cantos XLV and LI).

37 Selected Prose, p. 209 (" A Β C of Economics').

38 Ernest Fenollosa, The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, With a Foreword and Notes by Ezra Pound (London: Stanley Nott, 1936), p. 32.

39 Compare with Fenollosa's " In this process of compounding, two things added together do not produce a third thing but suggest some fundamental relation between them " (Op. cit., pp. 13-14).

40 See e. g. Impact, p. 143, and Selected Prose, p. 203 (" A Β C of Economics ").

41 Pleynet has ingeniously uncovered a contamination of the forename Ezra by usura, Pound's favourite word for " usury." See Marcelin Pleynet, " La compromission poétique," Tel Quel, vol. 70 (Summer 1977), pp. 22, 25.

42 Or, in Sieburth's terms, between nomen and nummus (Op. cit., p. 111).

43 In " The Erasure of History " (esp. p. 257), Maud Ellmann makes the connection between usury as erasure whose history remains blank and unwritten, and the pound sign which the American poet used to obliterate. This process of ob-literation could be aligned with Parker's position according to which Pound writes against writing (Op. cit., p. 119), to which we shall return later, and with analyses of metaphors of castration in Pound's economics (Casillo, " Anti-Semitism, Castration, and Usury in Ezra Pound," and also Sieburth, Op. cit., p. 104, about Gesell's Schwundgeld).

44 Op. cit., pp. 173-82 and 234-41. For Pound's ideogrammic regulations of his own name on the cover of the first edition of " Thrones," see Eva Hesse, " Answer to Question 14," Paideuma vol. Π, n° 1 (Spring 1973), p. 144, and also Rabaté, Op. cit., p. 235.

45 " Anti-Semitism, Castration, and Usury in Ezra Pound," p. 248. Thus, when Pound calls for an " ADEQUATE (and more or less just) distribution of credit slips " in " A Β C of Economics," he adds: " I have put 'ADEQUATE' in capitals and 'just' in lower case because that is the order of their importance " (Selected Prose, p. 220).

46 For the etymological link between capital (Latin capitale : property, principal) and cattle, see Emile Benveniste, Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes, vol. 1: Economie, parenté, société (Paris: Minuit, 1969), p. 60.

47 Selected Prose, p. 100. One should spend some time analyzing the excessive vagueness of the statement, especially in the light of the famous pronouncement in the " Usura " Canto XLV that " with usura the line grows thick," whose ambiguity, " which could imply that usury fortifies limit or obliterates it," has been aptly detected by Maud Ellmann (" Floating the Pound," p. 24).

48 Maud Ellmann, " The Erasure of History," p. 244.

49 Guide to Kulchur, p. 338. See also Selected Prose, p. 254 (" For a New Paideuma ") for the need of clear definitions of basic economic terms such as money, credit, interest, usury.

50 For a similar argument, see Murray, Op. cit., p. 190.

51 For a book-length study of Pound's debt to Dante, see James J. Wilhelm, Dante and Pound: The Epic of Judgement (Orono : U of Maine P, 1974).

52 See Berezin, Op. cit., pp. 267-68.

53 Compare with Fenollosa, pp. 13-14, quoted supra.

54 See " Floating the Pound," pp. 26 and 27, n° 4, and cf. also James J. Wilhelm, The Later Cantos of Ezra Pound (New York: Walker and Co., 1977), p. 182, who incidentally comments also on the capital nature of Pound's emphatic delivery: " In fact, here [i. e. in " Addendum for C "], as in Canto 45, one hears the voice of Ezra the Prophet, almost as if Pound were weighing pounds (money units) or pounds (weights) as he pounds his message home."

55 Shell has noted the parallel between " economic transference of property " and linguistic transfer of meaning " in several Indo-European languages (Money, Language and Thought, p. 85ff.).

56 Usura was itself subjected to time's usurious increment of meaning, from the fruit charged for the loan and use (i. e. consumption) of a fungible in Roman law (Hyde, Op. cit., p. 110), to various semantic strictures or enlargements (from the more " neutral " notion of a general loan of money to derogatory implications of an exorbitant rate), whose historical fluctuations were bound up with shifting conceptions of its (un) naturalness and of the relationship between nature and social-economic conventions and usage. See in that respect Hyde's reservations about the Aristotelian argument (Op. cit., pp. 112-13). However, for Shell, " modern theorists cannot depend on the distinction between nature and convention that made possible the theoretical rigor of the Aristotelian distinction between chrematistics and economy [...]. The tension between Aristotelian economics, in which nature is given to man, and modern economics, in which nature is changed through exploitation, informs much of modern philosophy and literature " (The Economy of Language, p. 111; see also pp. 111-112, n° 49).

57 Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, ed. and intr. T. S. Eliot (London: Faber, 1954), p. 259.

58 For a similar tension in Pound's Cantos, see Rabaté, Op. cit., pp. 141-82.

59 See e. g. Alan Durant, Ezra Pound, Identity in Crisis : A Fundamental Reassessment of the Poet and His Work (Sussex: Harvester, Totowa, NJ: Barnes and Noble, 1981), pp. 116-17.

60 Such a problematic of translation could be useful in offering a new critical articulation of Dante's view of the Adamic language and, especially, his ceaseless renegotiation of the relationship between Italian and Latin in order to determine which can be endowed with the nobler authority in a given context: the vernacular because it is man's God-given locutio universalis et naturalis, as in De Vulgari Eloquentia, written in Latin since the poet needs first to distil the " illustrious vulgar " -- the supraregional, synthetic idiom that the Commedia will be later written in -- out of the many impure municipal idioms; or Latin, praised for its immutable rules in the Convivio, roughly contemporaneous but composed in Italian.

61 For the complex network shaped by these interconnected problems, see especially " Des tours de Babel," Psyché : Inventions de l'autre (Paris : Galilée, 1987), pp. 203-35 ; " Table ronde sur la traduction," L'oreille de l'autre : otobiographies, transferts, traductions, Textes et débats avec Jacques Derrida sous la direction de Claude Lévesque et Christie V. Mc Donald (Montréal : Vlb éditeur, 1982), especially pp. 134-9 and p. 201 ; La carte postale : De Socrate à Freud et au-delà (Paris : Flammarion, 1980), especially p. 179 ; and " Living On — Border Lines," trans. James Hulbert, in Harold Bloom et al., Deconstruction and Criticism, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979), especially p. 102.

62 See e. g. the network of semantic-etymological retranslation of " Monte " (dei Paschi) as a bank a mount a fund a bottom " (Canto XLII) or " a base, a fondo, a deep " (Canto XLIII), in the larger context of the thematic overlaps and frequent reiterations in Cantos XLII-LI.

63 Literary Essays, p. 160 (my emphasis).

64 For Pound's view that time is not money, see Selected Prose, pp. 211, 213 (" A Β C of Economics "). Sieburth has made an ingenious connection between such an improper form of exchange and the tropological excess of metaphor which Derrida has analyzed in " White Mythology " (Op. cit., p. 101).

65 One may see, for instance, Pound's poetics of parataxis and his use of abbreviations as ways of saving or gaining time on usury which profits by selling time and selling art quickly And cheaply (cf. section II of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, Selected Poems, p. 99, and Canto XLV); see Rabaté, Op. cit., pp. 41-42. Medieval scholasticism held the view that time gave itself naturally, and therefore that the usurer, in capitalizing on and selling a natural/divine gift, acted against nature.

66 Pound has also been seen as capitalizing on his pseudonyms or counterfeit names -- see Ellmann, " The Erasure of History," p. 257, for a list.

67 Cf. Pound's Statement in A B C of Reading (London: Faber, 1951), p. 25: 'You do not accept a stranger's cheques without reference. In writing a man's 'name' is his reference. He has, after a time, credit."

68 Compare with Sieburth, Op. cit., p. 120, and with Derrida's reading of the surplus value and credit of Nietzsche's multiple signatures in " Otobiographies: The Teaching of Nietzsche and the Politics of the Proper Name," trans. Avital Ronell, in The Ear of the Other : Otobiography, Transference, Translation, ed. Christie McDonald (Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1985), esp. pp. 7-8.

69 Hudson Maxim, The Science of Poetry and the Philosophy of Language (1910), p. 95, which Pound reviewed the same year in Book News Monthly ; quoted in Ian P. A. Bell, Critic as Scientist: The Modernist Poetics of Ezra Pound (London: Methuen, 1981), p. 34, who mentions Pound's approval of Maxim's remark on the economizing nature of poetry (p. 33).

70 See e. g. Canto LII, Selected Prose, p. 146, mentioned above, and Guide to Kulchur, p. 357: " Nature's productivity is the root (ref/ also Del Mar : interest is due teleologically to the increase of domestic animals and plants)." In Canto XLII, "'The Abundance'" (L'Abondanza) refers to the magistracy charged with provision of grain.

71 For the latter, see Rabaté, Op. cit., pp. 217-18, who analyzes Pound's observations in the Postface to his translation of Remy de Gourmont's Physique de l'Amour.

72 See e. g. Selected Prose, pp. 244, 246, 251, and Impact, pp. 142-3.

73 See Rabaté, Op. cit., especially pp. 196-97.

74 The phrase is borrowed from Lewis Mumford's The Myth of the Machine, vol. I: Technics and Human Development (New York: Harcourt, 1966), pp. 94-97, where it refers to the inexhaustible wealth of linguistic production whose surplus need not be used up.

75 In one of his war talks on the Fascist radio (30 April 1942), Pound had condemned nineteenth-century philology for having severed connections with overall concerns like the national income by overspecialization, thus disrupting the free circulation among disciplines that provided the larger hermeneutic rationale for his unimpeded economic circulation; see " Ezra Pound Speaking:" Radio Speeches of World War II, ed. Leonard W. Doob (Westport, Conn: Greenwood P, 1978), p. 115.

76 Literary Essays, p. 77, where Pound also refers the reader to " How To Read " and A Β C of Reading.

77 Like usury, which, as we have seen, never encourages clear definitions, rhetoric blurs precision " through a habit of defining things always'in terms of something else.'" See Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir (New York: New Directions, 1970), p. 117. For a rapprochement, in the light of Derrida's " White Mythology," between usury and rhetoric, both sharing and identical structure of excess and being therefore equally denounced by Pound, see Parker, p. 115. Pound's distrust for metaphor is not far removed from the Medieval scholastic view of metaphorical, i. e. not proper, meaning as usurpata translatio, which usurps or usuriously appropriates the " property " of the word (see Shoaf, p. 33).

78 Pound's position is pithily summarized in his last invective against usury in " Addendum for C :" " A pity that poets have used symbol and metaphor/and no man learned anything from them/for their speaking in figures " (Cantos, p. 799). This ultimate statement, in the context of yet another indulgence in an overkill of usury's traditional, metaphorical masks-usury is serpent, canker, in the tradition of, say, Wilson's denunciatory metaphorology, but also much more-is the final coup de grâce to Pound's self-contradictions, for never did the poet wax so lyrical, metaphorical, and rhetorical (as in the anaphoric structure of Canto XLV), swerving away from his economy of the " just word," as when he set about castigating usury.

79 The unrestricted process of symbolic convertibility which we observed in The Merchant of Venice can be measured in terms of the more aporetic economy of Pound's system of generalized exchange which yet wants to preserve clear-cut separations: " The nations have forgotten the differences between animal, vegetable, and mineral ; or rather, finance has chosen to represent all three of the natural categories by a single means of exchange, and failed to take account of the consequences. [...] Fascinated by the lustre of a metal, man made it into chains. Then he invented something against nature, a false representation in the mineral world of laws which apply only to animals and vegetables " (" Gold and Work," Selected Prose, p. 316).

80 See e. g. Pound's introduction to the sonnets and baílate of Guido Cavalcanti in his Translations, intr. Hugh Kenner (London: Faber, 1953), p. 23, and also " Life comes in metaphor and metaphor starts TOWARD ideogram " (Selected Prose, p. 423). This " dynamic " view of metaphor should be seen in conjunction with his belief in an interpretative or " absolute rhythm " which is " uncounterfeiting, uncounterfeitable " (Literary Essays, p. 9).

81 See e. g. the heliocentric tendency of Pound's metaphorological system, which has been analyzed by Casillo in a gesture reminiscent of that performed by Derrida in " The White Mythology " (see his " Troubadour Love and Usury in Ezra Pound's Writings," p. 136ff.).

82 See especially Hyde, Op. cit., pp. 262, 265, Parker, Op. cit., p. 107, and Stephen Hartnett, " The Ideologies and Semiotics of Fascism: Analyzing Pound's Cantos 12-15," Boundary 2, vol. 20, n° 1 (Spring 1993), pp. 77-78. See also A B C of Reading, pp. 25-26, for Pound's emphasis on reference, p. 28, about the convertibility of words waged on objects standing surety for them (hence the valorization of the Chinese ideogrammic language for its iconicity; Ibid., p. 21), and Gaudier-Brzeska, pp. 113-114, for Pound's view of the responsibility of rhetoric in the decline of civilization, " when words cease to cling close to things."

83 Glas (Paris: Denoël/Gonthier, 1981), vol. 2, p. 340 (page de gauche).

84 Jacques Derrida, " La Mythologie blanche," Marges de la philosophie (Paris: Minuit 1972), p. 261.

85 Derrida, " La Mythologie blanche," p. 250.

86 On se reportera aux prières d'insérer qu'arbore sur le rabat de la couverture tout ouvrage paru dans la collection " La philosophie en effet."

87 " La Mythologie blanche," p. 256. Cf. aussi p. 257 : " L'inscription du numéraire est le plus souvent le lieu de croisement, la scène de l'échange entre le linguistique et l'économique."

88 Voici rompue la logique usuraire du titre, copiée sur l'une des approches les plus lapidaires de la déconstruction par Derrida lui-même, que je choisis--on verra bientôt pourquoi-de restituer dans l'impossibilité de sa glose-traduction en anglais : " If I had to risk a single definition of deconstruction, one as brief, elliptical, and economical as a password, I would say simply and without overstatement [sic]: plus d'une langue -- more than one language, no more of one language." (Memoirs for Paul De Man, trans. Cecile Lindsay, Jonathan Culler, Eduardo Cadava, and Peggy Kamuf (New York: Columbia UP, 1986), p. 15 [je souligne]).

89 Voir, en traduction uniquement, l'entretien de Christie V. McDonald avec Jacques Derrida intitulé " Choreographies," The Ear of the Other, pp. 163-85.

90 Jacques Derrida, " La différance," Marges de la philosophie (Paris : Minuit, 1972), p. 18.

91 Cette " mise en rapport " d'une économie restreinte " ne faisant aucune part à la dépense sans réserve " et d'une économie générale " tenant compte de la non-réserve, tenant en réserve la lecture de Bataille proposée dans L'Ecriture et la différence (Paris : Seuil, 1967), pp. 369-407.

92 Ibid., pp. 20-21. On aimerait pouvoir s'attarder davantage sur ce qui " différencie " précisément une telle économie, annoncée dans L'Ecriture et la différence, p. 34, d'avec l'Aufhebung, cette " loi économique de réappropriation absolue de la perte absolue " (Glas, vol. 1, p. 187 (page de gauche)), dont Marc Shell souligne judicieusement que l'équivalent anglais, sub-lation, est lié grammaticalement à dif-ference (Money, Language, and Thought, p. 147).

93 Voir Christopher Johnson, System and Writing in the Philosophy of Jacques Derrida (Cambridge : CUP, 1993), pp. 57-64, pour d'autres remarques sur l'économie derridienne comme pensée de la force et de la forme à la fois (p. 32). Il faudrait ici pouvoir ouvrir une longue parenthèse sur l'articulation de la production comme (écono) mimesis et du " propre " de la mimesis à la lueur des divers essais, notamment ceux de Jacques Derrida lui-même et de Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe rassemblés dans Mimesis : Des articulations (Paris : Aubier-Flammarion, 1975).

94 " Ce motif de la circulation peut donner à penser que la loi de l'économie est le retourcirculaire--au point de départ, à l'origine, à la maison aussi. On aurait ainsi à suivre la structure odysséique du récit économique. L' oikonomia emprunterait toujours le chemin d'Ulysse " (Jacques Derrida, Donner le temps : 1. La fausse monnaie (Paris : Galilée, 1991), p. 18). C'est aussi en ce sens qu'il faut concevoir la structure différante, odysséique et économique des Cantos d'Ezra Pound.

95 Voir notamment Donner le temps, p. 41 (se référant aux travaux de Marcel Mauss), pour le contrat usuraire dans lequel est pris tout don, et p. 42, où Derrida met en relief le double bind du don, qui doit (dé) lier tout à la fois. Pour une analyse du double bind dans l'écriture derridienne même, on se reportera à Sarah Kofman, Lectures de Derrida (Paris : Galilée, 1984), p. 139 sq.

96 Processus d'échange que nous aimerions tacitement mettre en parallèle avec cette observation de Jean-Joseph Goux ; " La comparaison de l'usure des 'images,' des 'mots,' avec l'usure de la monnaie, est elle-même usée, monnaie courante " (Op. cit., p. 193), laquelle fait suite à un rappel de la position nietzschéenne sur les vérités comme métaphores usées telles des pièces de monnaie et est donc à rapprocher de cette remarque préalable : "La spéculation conceptuelle, et tout aussi bien, suivant une autre accentuation, la métaphore de la perte de relief qui affecte, par usure, le langage courant" (Ibid., p. 187).

Auteur

Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory, Cardiff

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 1995

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