Wyndham Lewis

Anthony Paraskeva

in The Speech-Gesture Complex

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print October 2013 | ISBN: 9780748684892
Published online May 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780748695249 | DOI:

Series: Edinburgh Critical Studies in Modernism Drama and Performance EUP

Wyndham Lewis

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This chapter reads Enemy of the Stars as a confrontation between naturalist and modernist performance style, in light of his rivalry with Joyce, and places Lewis at the forefront of a theatrical (rather than literary) tradition which encompasses the major practitioners of modernist theatre, from Gordon Craig and Yeats, through Meyerhold, Brecht, and Beckett. The chapter compares gestures in Lewis’ painting and writing, and examines the complex use of deictic referents and reflexive pronouns in Enemy of the Stars, and also in Tarr. The chapter then investigates Lewis’ critique of performative mimesis in The Childermass and his political writing, and recovers a sustained critique of the institution of cinema and the star system, its relations with group psychology, mass politics and political regimes in intimate courtship with cinematic spectacle. By adopting a Brechtian method, the chapter proposes a radical re-reading of The Childermass as a savage prophetic satire on the cultural-political methods of fascism. Lewis’s rejection of Joycean naturalism, his surprising allegiance to the anti-fascist work of Brecht, Benjamin, Adorno and Kracauer and his analysis of the relations between film, politics and performance, serves as a neglected counter-context to the self-condemning political pronouncements of 1930s.

Keywords: Enemy of the Stars; Tarr; The Childermass; modernist theatre; cinema; fascism; Brecht; Benjamin; Adorno; Kracauer

Chapter.  20924 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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