Friday, December 05, 2014
I am currently working on a piece comparing and contrasting two archetypically controversial figures of modern times: Friedrich Nietzsche and Ezra Pound. Electronic searches have yielded several respectful comments by Pound in his earlier years regarding the German thinker.
Yet quite by accident I came across a real gem. Writing in 1933 about the concept of the Will to Power, Pound dismissed N. as a "hysterical teuto-pollak," managing to combine two ethnic stereotypes into one put-down. In a sense his source was Nietzsche himself, because the philosopher believed himself to be of aristocratic Polish extraction (a view that has since been refuted). When Nietzsche's writings were first received in the US, however, some ascribed his emotional intensity to his "Slavonic" heritage.
After teaching for many years in an inner-city college, I learned to be wary of stereotypes based on my students' background. Any assumptions of that kind were almost invariably wrong. Many though still cherish such judgments.