In 1955, a young Jewish Canadian sociologist named Erving Goffman began a year of fieldwork at St. Elizabeths, a federal institution for the insane. Goffman’s time at St. Elizabeths would eventually lead to the publication of Asylums, a text highly critical of institutions and psychiatry, which became a key text in many areas of academia. At the same time, Ezra Pound, an American poet was well into his tenth year of confinement at St. Elizabeths, having been found of unsound mind and thus incapable of defending the charges of treason leveled against him by the United States Government. This is the imagined story of the circumstances surrounding their meeting, and the subsequent development of an unlikely friendship forged on a tennis court in “hell”. It is also the telling of a tale in the form of a screenplay that encompasses the multiple layers of madness, genius and beauty captured within the confines of St. Elizabeths. It is a work of fictional truth that has carefully woven together allusions to many of the works that influenced Pound’s writing of The Cantos, such as the Odyssey and the Divine Comedy. In the end, it is also a story of how life’s circumstances can propel one in a direction that may not have seemed likely at the time.
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