Review of Louise Pound: Scholar, Athlete, Feminist Pioneer and Louise Pound: The 19th Century Iconoclast Who Forever Changed America's Views about Women, Academics and Sports
Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly (Spring 2010) 30(2): 153-154.
In his preface to Marie Krohn's biography of Louise Pound, Robert Cochran explains that Pound's life as a subject is "big enough" to accommodate both Krohn's biography and his own. He is being gracious, but readers of Great Plains Quarterly should not be fooled Cochran's biography of the distinguished University of Nebraska English professor and folklorist is far better than Krohn's. In need of a thorough editing and a careful proofreading, Krohn's book consists largely of over-long quotations and summaries unassimilated into her own overarching interpretation of the life of her subject. Several chapters, for instance, consist of little more than summarized and quoted material from Robert Knoll's admirable history of the University of Nebraska, Prairie University (1995). While relying too much on authority in some instances, in others she reads Pound's mind, telling us, for instance, that Pound "no doubt" judged university chancellor Edgar Burnett as "an unworthy administrator."
In many respects, Cochran's fine book is an intellectual biography, making Pound's keen mind its central subject. Like Pound, Cochrane practices folklore in an English department (in his case, the University of Arkansas). His parallel experience makes him an ideal interpreter of Pound's intellectual achievements. Most literary historians who write biographies currently style them as "cultural biographies," in which each chapter foregrounds and theorizes a particular historical or cultural context of the biographical subject. Cochrane instead dives right in to a briskly paced-and engaging- chronological narrative, starting with a brief family history and the arrival of Pound's parents in Nebraska. Subtly, however, he is laying the groundwork for an incisive analysis of Pound's major scholarly achievements: her articles and book on the history of ballads, her work collecting and publishing folklore, and her work on American language and dialect.