Reading Late Wyndham Lewis

John Whittier-Ferguson

Published online March 2016 | | DOI:

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Focused on the criticism of the later writings of Wyndham Lewis, this essay argues that Lewis’s response to the ruining of Enlightenment hopes and promises in the Great War resulted in impassioned polemics and fictions that interrogate the possibility of humanist resistance to the brutalities of modernity. Lewis continues to inspire unusually heated, combative critical exchanges, particularly regarding his notorious if fairly short-lived intellectual and political embrace of fascism. Defenses of Lewis’s late writing are easiest to make when one maintains some distance from the details of Lewis’s texts themselves. Focusing on the example of Jessica Burstein’s Cold Modernism and the kinds of reading enabled by her approach to Lewis’s work, this essay concludes with the suggestion that an “ahumanist,” “cold” Lewis may well be on the cusp of a new season of fruitful attention from the academy.

Keywords: Wyndham Lewis; fascism; fascist; politics; satire; cold modernism; late modernism; World War II; humanism; Rude Assignment; The Art of Being Ruled; The Revenge for Love; Hitler; Jameson; Kenner; Corbett; Gąsiorek

Article.  15654 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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