The Self Condemned
The work of Wyndham Lewis would seem, on the face of it, an unlikely place to begin a critical discussion of late modernism. Lewis was, after all, a key player in the small but noisy pre-World War I British avant-garde. Already by the outbreak of the war, he had gained notoriety as the foremost representative of extreme modernism in painting and as the volcanic impulse behind the journal Blast (1914-1915). And while known at that time primarily as a visual artist, he had also published stories and sketches, eventually reprinted in The Wild Body (1927). His expressionistic play, Enemy of the Stars , featured violent action and screaming typography that fought for the spotlight with the manifestos in the first issue of Blast . This latter "drama," with its minimal plot, extraordinary science fiction-like setting, and extremities of language, probably represented the farthest frontier of experimental writing on the British scene until ,the publication of Woolf's The Waves and Joyce's Finnegans Wake many years later. Still finding few parallels in British or American writing, Enemy of the Stars stands more comfortably among the works of the early European avant-gardes, with the spectacles of Russian and Italian futufism or the violently contorted stage events of expressionism and dadaism.
Yet Lewis, as I have already noted, was interrupted in his role as leader of the British avant-garde. He went off to war in the uniform of an artillery officer; and he came back, as he regularly insisted throughout his later career, erased : "a man of the tabula rasa," as he would later
describe himself to Julian Symons. The Great War imposed a division in his life and career, as deep and impassable as an intricate trench system. This hellish catastrophe was "more than war," Lewis would remark late in his life. "It put up a partition in one's mind; it blocked off the past literally as if a huge wall had been set up there." Lewis's enormous energies were never stymied for long, however, and he began over, intensively remaking himself as the artistic lone gun, the aggressive polemicist-critic, the political enemy.
The specific forms his self-reinvention took are crucial to my account, as indices of broader shifts and ruptures within the cultural formation we have come to call modernism. Two additional reasons, however, contribute to the central role that I give Lewis in this study of late modernism. First was his torrential productivity. By 1937, according to his own account, Lewis had written twenty-four books, many of considerable scale: novels, works of criticism, polemics, political tracts, short story collections. Along with this literary production, he managed to sustain a respectable, if financially and politically hampered, career as a painter as well. The sheer volume of his production in so many areas, then, allows me not just to read "symptomatically" a few literary works for their tensions with the prestigious exemplars of modernism, an approach I necessarily take to the writings of Djuna Barnes and Samuel Beckett in the chapters that follow. Lewis's comprehensive writing practice embraces several registers and rhetorics, from publicistic harangues and popular journalism to highly erudite discussions of literature, art, and philosophy. The broadest reach of Lewis's written output creates, of itself, a significant context for understanding the more circumscribed field of "literary" (or as he put it, "formal") writings—works in which Lewis's polemic against modernism remains more tacit, expressed primarily through his handling of narrative voice, stylistic parody, and formal manipulation. Lewis devotes so many pages of his "informal" writ-ing—pamphlets, articles, polemics, literary criticism, philosophical reflections, political commentary letters to editors, private correspondence—to cultural, political, and autobiographical justification of his literary practice that the task of the- critic becomes somewhat different than when confronting more taciturn writers like Barnes and Beckett. In Lewis's case, the critic is compelled to sift through and collate materials across the different genres and domains that engaged Lewis's energies as a writer, in order that a coherent picture of his trouble with modernism might eventually emerge.
I also give Lewis pride of place because of a peculiarity of his career, which allows us to measure with a certain precision the difference between his early and later contexts as they affected the social meaning of his writings. In a span of a few years, Lewis republished almost everything he had written before or during the war, much of it in substantially revised form. His reinvention of himself entailed a kind of repetition of his literary beginnings. But it was a repetition with a difference, a second beginning in a new political and cultural environment. In considering Lewis's acts of revision, critics have often evaluated the stylistic shifts that distinguish the earlier and later versions of the Wild Body short stories, the novel Tarr , and the vorticist drama Enemy of the Stars . I am not concerned here, however, with the question of which version is better. I seek to delineate the new discursive and practical contexts in which the works reappear, new contexts that are at least partially shaped by contemporaneous works Lewis was newly publishing alongside the republished early works. Lewis's early work, I suggest, took shape within the framework of avant-garde groupings and concerns. The republished work, in contrast, appears within the expanded framework of Lewis's intellectual activity after 1926, activity increasingly bound up with a logic of publicity, ideological conflict, and struggle over canonizing authority in literary criticism.
In the late 1930s, finding himself politically isolated, financially straitened, and desperate from the evident approach of another war, Wyndham Lewis took a break from his pamphlets, political tracts, and novels to compose his autobiography. This book, Blasting and Bombardiering , treated only one segment of the life of the fifty-five-year-old artist and writer: the years of the war and of the immediate postwar period, 1914 to 1926. Lewis viewed this work of remembrance as "a trip to a stricken area," where a "spot of tidying up had to be effected." The war years and their aftermath still held for him a traumatic charge and, like a war neurosis, had to be reenacted and reexperienced. "They still have a life of sorts," he wrote, "while you live, and they just tumbled out upon the floor of time in a disorderly heap. They must almost be re-lived, for antiseptic purposes" (B&B , 6).
Lewis's act of memorial hygiene served equally to polish an image of his career. He was self-consciously fostering one picture of it and trying,
if possible, to preempt other views. He needed to cordon off the twelve years following 1914 and set them to order; the year 1926 had to appear a dangerous moment faced once and forever dispelled. Yet these very years continued to harken, sirenlike, back to a dead time—a time of mass death in the trenches and of artistic death in the "underground" years of Lewis's turn from painting to writing. "My first book Tarr was a novel (1918)," Lewis writes. "Then I buried myself. I disinterred myself in 1926, the year of the General Strike" (B&B , 5). Through writing, Lewis fought his way back to the surface again and struggled to remain there, wishing to avoid at any cost another descent into the trenches and the mud.
Lewis identifies his "rebirth" with a key event of mass politics, the failed General Strike, which at once exposed the moribund nature of British social institutions and revealed the unreadiness of labor to offer an alternative. It was also in this year of conflict that Lewis unleashed the first of his major polemics against the culture of modernism, The Art of Being Ruled , followed the next year by Time and Western Man . Lewis's political critique and the literary ideology of these books began to march in step; 1926 was the year in which the notorious fascist-leaning antimodernist "Enemy," Wyndham Lewis, had himself born. Lewis's parting with modernism and ambivalent turn toward fascism thus seem to pivot around this year of strikes and blasted cohorts in the modernist movement. Accordingly, through a detailed look at the various contexts and connotations implied by Lewis's reference to the General Strike in his fictions and polemics, we can discern how elaborately intertwined in Lewis's activity as a writer were his political and aesthetic concerns.
A crucial stage for these concerns was Lewis's notorious barrage against the twin camps of fashionable modernism, the Bloomsburys and the Sitwell clique, in The Apes of God (1930). After hundreds of pages, he brings his satiric ape hunt to its conclusion with a chapter entitled, significantly, "The General Strike." In this final chapter, having long suffered the social slings and arrows of outrageous apehood, Lewis's witless hero Dan, suspiciously resembling the young Stephen Spender, finds himself lost and alone in the midst of an unfamiliarly quiet London, paralyzed by the lack of motor traffic. The strike has shut down the buses, trams, and trains, and only the roving bourgeois volunteers, who offer rides to stranded employees, are on the streets. Dan, however, in his obliviousness to everything and all, has no idea that a strike is on and instead believes he is being propositioned by well-dressed
homosexual motorists. Indignantly, he refuses their altruistic advances. Whereas in the earlier chapters of the book, Dan fails to perceive the bourgeois class consciousness expressed in homosexuality (as Lewis believed), "The General Strike" parodically reverses and literalizes the scene; now Dan mistakes an overt expression of ruling-class activism for sexual impropriety. 
The chapter ends with a grotesque parody of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway . Woolf's novel appeared in the year before the General Strike and comes to stand in Lewis's text as an emblematic instance of a modernism become manner and fashion. Two passages from that work contribute to Lewis's concluding chapter in The Apes of God . In the first of these, Woolf offers a scene in which Clarissa Dalloway's former suitor, Peter Walsh, is interrupted in his peripatetic reveries (about kissing Clarissa) by the sound of singing in the street:
A sound interrupted him; a frail quivering sound, a voice bubbling up without direction, vigour, beginning or end, running weakly and shrilly and with an absence of all human meaning into
ee um fah um so
foo swee too eem oo —
the voice of no age or sex, the voice of an ancient spring spouting from the earth; which issued, just opposite Regent's Park Tube station from a tall quivering shape, like a funnel, like a rusty pump, like a wind-beaten tree for ever barren of leaves which lets the wind run up and down its branches singing
ee um fah um so
foo swee too eem oo
and rocks and creaks and moans in the eternal breeze.
Later, Woolf evokes the image of a dying woman, imagined in Elizabeth Dalloway's mind, as the noise from the parade going on below rises to her from the street:
The noise was tremendous; and suddenly there were trumpets (the unemployed) blaring, rattling about in the uproar; military music; as if people were marching; yet had they been dying—had some woman breathed her last and whoever was watching, opening the window of the room where she had just brought off that last act of supreme dignity, looked down on Fleet Street, that uproar, that military music would have come triumphing up to him, consolatory, indifferent. (138)
Lewis pastiches the two, both literalizing the free-floating image of the dying woman—in Woolf's text, a kind of indeterminate psychological
metonymy for Miss Kilman, who "liked people who were ill" (136)— and parodically mimicking the typographical rendering of the wordless song. In Lewis's version, it is no longer the maturely handsome Clarissa and Peter who occupy the scene but rather the utterly decrepit Lady Fredigonde and the shameless gold-digger Horace Zagreus. As Zagreus proposes to Fredigonde and bends to kiss her, she hears the sound of "Death the Drummer" in the street below:
Their lips met, and the love-light softened the old discoloured corneous surface of the fredigondean eyeball, once a lacteous blue. Over this conventionally she dropped her lids in a token of virgin-rapture.—In the street outside there was a frenzied rattle. . . . There was a drum-tap. Like rain drops, there was a constant tapping, a sharp drip upon the loud parchment. Then came the first soft crash of the attendant cymbal—it was the prelude of the thunder. And in the gutter the crazy instruments at last struck up their sentimental jazzing one-time stutter—gutter-thunder.
Whoddle ah doo
Whoddle ah doo
This concluding "emblem" of The Apes of God , patched together from fragments of Woolf's precursor text, finds its visual complement in Lewis's drawings for the book. The illustration for this concluding chapter is an ape paw hanging from a chain link, which is in turn fastened to the walk It can be understood as the grotesque, flaccid, slavish double of the clenched, chain-breaking fist of socialist iconography: at once the symbol of ruling-class feebleness and, in its apish ability to mimic revolutionary gestures while remaining in chains, the very instrument of continued bourgeois ascendancy. In fact, Lewis returned to the image of the militant ape paw when he satirized the thirties poets a few years later in his poem One-Way Song . Here, on the title page of the section called "Engine Fight-Talk," his icon has recovered its erect shape after its impotent collapse in the General Strike; it stands ready, in clublike, hairy tumescence, to wage the intensifying class, age, and sex wars of the day.
Lewis, as the satiric artist, rests uncomfortably between these two class emblems. If he associates his own reemergence as a writer and a cultural critic with 1926, this role depends on the very indecision of that
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year's historic event, which neither led to socialism nor allowed a confident restoration of ruling-class order. Such a catastrophic balance between opposed forces pervades Lewis's fiction both structurally and thematically, and it constitutes an essential element of his political ideology as well. Historically speaking, however, the catastrophic
equilibrium of social forces was the political condition under which fascist movements arose and were able to appeal to members of society threatened by social and economic instability. As Antonio Gramsci noted, fascist-type movements were "rendered historically effective by their adversary's inability to construct, not an inherent force of their own. Hence they are linked to a particular situation of equilibrium between the conflicting forces—both incapable in their respective camps of giving autonomous expression to a will for reconstruction." The leader of the British fascists, Oswald Mosley, employed this rhetorical image of a stalemate of ideological opponents as a primary appeal for a new party of action, which could bring the positive elements of both sides out of deadlock:
The two essentials of Government are stability and progress; and the tragedy of politics is that the two, essentially coincident, are organised as contradictions. . . . The result of both systems of the great organised Parties of the State is in the end the same. Stability confused with reaction and a resistance to change, together with progress confused with obstructive debate and committee irresponsibility, end alike in chaos. Both are instruments for preventing things being done, and the first requisite of the modern age is that things be done.
By 1930, when Lewis published The Apes of God , Britain was quickly nearing the trough of the long economic slump that only really ended with the renewal of wartime production. The following year would bring disastrous electoral losses of the Labour party, disappointing many liberal intellectuals and leading to an increasing political polarization to both the right and the left, with the increasing appeal of the Communist party at one extreme and the rise of Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists at the other. While fascism never had the fertile territory in Britain that it had in Germany, Italy, Austria, and even France, the relative weakness of the British state after World War I did conjure for some intellectuals, Lewis among them, the specter of an interminable struggle between a moribund ruling class and a newly aggressive but still politically uncertain working class. In this context, a political third force that would call itself, as Lewis and his compatriots had once, the "Modern Movement," could find a positive echo.
For Lewis, this political deadlock between social classes was redoubled in the politics of everyday life: above all, in the relations of the sexes and of the generations. In The Apes of God, the idea of a sex and age war is "broadcast" at the Finnian Shaw costume party by the aristocrat
Starr-Smith (probably based on the future fascist leader Mosley), a surly, super-masculine crasher attired in Italian blackshirt:
The child-parent-war is put across by means of the emotions aroused by the age-complex and the youth-complex dominating the first Post-war decade. The child-parent-war is the war next in succession to the sex-war . . . . (For the break-up of the aryan Family-idea, two "wars" have been arranged. The sex-war covers the child-parent relationship. This is a parallel "revolt." When these "wars" have been brought to bear in social life with full effect, the Family will have entirely disintegrated.) (AOG , 531)
I will suspend until later the question of how closely these views can be taken to express Lewis's own.  For now it suffices to remark that "fascist discourse" emerges in the novel in the context (postulated, at least, by Lewis) of interlocking conflicts tending to exhaust the traditional institutions of social authority.
Starr-Smith, moreover, sees social critique and revolt as already compromised by the saturation of the social field with oppositional discourses and actions. There are two consistent responses to such an analysis, between which Lewis's own political writings tend to waver. One would be commitment to some "third force" of renewal, not trapped in the conflicts of the other parties: a primary appeal of fascism at this time. The other, which probably could be considered Lewis's predominant but not always consistently held position, is a resolute suspicion of all ideology and political action.
Retrospectively, then, Lewis associated his own reemergence in 1926 with the British General Strike. This event was important ideologically for Lewis, for it revealed the fragility of the postwar consensus on which, in his view, writers like Arnold Bennett, the Sitwell clique, and the Bloomsbury circle were wholly dependent. At the same time, it revealed the relative weakness and lack of political consciousness of the forces that had most to gain from the destruction of that order—the working classes. Under these circumstances, Lewis believed, the social arena would be increasingly filled with combatants, locked in continuous struggle, but without any definitive resolution. These battles would multiply—between the sexes, races, classes, and nations—until generalized into one total but no less static Great War like the one in which Lewis had suffered a decade earlier.
Lewis's reference to the General Strike, finally, is also significant in a less direct way, for the implied analogy to his own oppositional "strike" against modernism. Lewis launched his polemic against modernism first
in his 1926 book, The Art of Being Ruled ; he followed up the next year with "The Revolutionary Simpleton," an attack on his friend and supporter Ezra Pound. 1927 also saw the publication of Time and Western Man , which lambasted everyone from Stein to Einstein. Yet by 1937, when Lewis's Blasting and Bombardiering appeared, this association of his "revolutionary gesture" with that of the British proletariat was an ironic one, to say the least. For the General Strike, like Lewis's attempt to reform literary culture at one blow, was largely a failure. Just as the mass strikes of 1926 had fizzled due to the indifference or hostility of the public, and to compromises and betrayals by the leadership, so too, in Lewis's view, the critical putsch he had attempted had gained few followers. Neither "event," neither the large-scale political one nor the more restricted literary one, produced the revolutionary changes their authors had hoped they would—a fact painfully evident to Lewis by the mid-1930s.
With The Art of Being Ruled, Time and Western Man , and The Childermass , Lewis had sincerely hoped to reassert the artistic leadership he had once exerted in 1914 with Blast . Instead, he succeeded in plunging himself into ever-deeper political and artistic isolation, as his positions rigidified and his arguments became more shrill. Lewis even implies a causal link between the failed General Strike and his own backfired rebellion. The enduring fashion of the art he disliked and the pliability of the institutions he hated both pointed, in his view, to a single, hidden machinery of power. In the critical and fictional works that appear after 1926, the code of art and the code of politics become mutually translatable.
Returning to Lewis's parody of Woolf at the end of "The General Strike," I would argue that, besides the particular political valencies of the passage, it also demonstrates a salient aspect of Lewis's late modernist writing as a whole: in these works, modernistic qualities and specific antimodernist polemics are intimately related. At a surface, or let us say, phenomenological level, Lewis's style here is marked by the same disjunctions and perspectival estrangements that lend Woolf's prose its difficult beauty. Yet at an implicit polemical level—a level accessible only by establishing Lewis's passage in a particular context of personages and discourses—Lewis rejects in the most stringent terms Woolf's flowing lyricism, her stylistic applications of Bloomsbury formalist aesthetics, her rather snobbish class consciousness, and her liberal feminist outlook. Here and elsewhere, Lewis's prose becomes a curious mélange of mimicry and violent rejection. I should also note that a few years after the appearance of The Apes of God , Lewis made another parodic jab at
Woolf in The Roaring Queen , a send-up of book prizes, reviewers, and the detective-fiction craze; in 1936, the book was withdrawn by Jonathan Cape for fear of libel. In his strong turn to parody and satire, then, Lewis sharpened his oppositional stance to high modernism while, paradoxically, feeding his opposition on the rich stylistic fodder and personal mythology of the writers he was attacking: Joyce, Stein, Woolf, Hemingway, Lawrence, Pound.
In his critical study Men Without Art , published two years after The Apes of God , Lewis would make his polemical attack on Woolf explicit. The stakes were, for Lewis, not so much strictly literary as critical and ideological. Lewis took up Woolf's renowned essay "Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown," to argue against her strictures on realism and her historicist account of why the modern novel was necessarily fragmentary and attenuated in comparison to an earlier time. Lewis's arguments boil down to two: that in linking her anti-Edwardian polemic to her feminist concerns with Mrs. Brown, Woolf was exploiting gender conflicts to advance the interests of her literary-artistic coterie, the Bloomsbury circle; and that Woolf's position presupposed and exemplified the provincialism of that clique's views—"as though," Lewis writes, "she, Bennett, Wells and Galsworthy had been the only people in the world at the time, and as if there had been no books but their books, and no land but England." For Lewis, however, Woolf was merely a convenient target for attacking what he saw as the new modernist hegemony in literary criticism , a bloc of opinion represented above all by Eliot, Woolf, Spender, and the new Cambridge Modern English figureheads, I. A. Richards and the Leav-ises. "The people who have been most influential in literary criticism, for a number of years now," he writes, "have been interested in the propagation of this account of things—just as the orthodox economists have, consciously or not, from interested motives, maintained in its place the traditional picture—that of superhuman difficulty —of some absolute obstructing the free circulation of the good things of life" (MWA , 138). Woolf, for her part, also realized that this struggle with modernist critical orthodoxy was indeed the aim of Lewis's attack. Before having even seen Lewis's Men Without Art , having only read an advertisement for the forthcoming book, Woolf wrote in her diary: "Now I know by reason & instinct that this is an attack; that I am publicly demolished: nothing is left of me in Oxford & Cambridge & places where the young read Wyndham Lewis" (Woolf, cited in MWA , 306).
One such young person was I. A. Richards's maverick student William Empson. In his 1935 study of pastoral, for example, Empson praises
Lewis's Shakespeare book, The Lion and the Fox , and in his discussion of Alice in Wonderland , he appropriates Lewis's ideas on "child-cult," first argued in Time and Western Man . In a late essay, a preface for John Harrison's study of the modernist right-wing, The Reactionaries , Empson begins with testimony to Lewis's influence on his views: " 'Oh, it's a wild life in the Near West, between one revelation and another,' said Wyndham Lewis, describing the intellectual scene around him as a fun fair; that was in Time and Western Man (1928), and I felt the exhilaration of it, even then. Now that everything is so dismal we should look back with reverence on that great age of poets and fundamental thinkers, who were so ready to consider heroic remedies." On the other hand, Lewis was not generally included in the canon of modernist works given favor in F. R. Leavis's Scrutiny . Typical in this regard is Leavis's own 1934 dismissal of Lewis, in an article entitled "Mr. Eliot, Mr. Wyndham Lewis and Lawrence": "No one who can read will acclaim Lawrence as a philosopher, but 'incapacity for what we ordinarily call thinking'— does this not apply far more to Mr. Wyndham Lewis than to Lawrence?. . . His pamphleteering volumes are not books; their air of sustained and ordered argument is a kind of bluff, as the reader who, having contrived to read one through, can bring himself to attempt a summary of it discovers." Seconding Leavis's view was also T. R. Barnes's judgment on Lewis in his dismissive review of the 1932 critical book Wyndham Lewis: A Discursive Exposition , by Hugh Gordon Porteus: "That Lewis is well informed and intelligent is obvious; but the exaggerated contemporary estimate of him seems to rest on two things—the amount he has written, and his own self-advertisement. . . . Lewis, like Shaw, Wells, and the Sitwells, sells his wares. Unlike the Sitwells, he really has something for sale, but it would be absurd to take him at his own valuation. He is a symptom, not a leader, of the age."
Only in this charged critical climate, in which the stakes were the direction of both extra-academic literary culture and the legitimacy of Modern English literary studies at the British university, does Lewis's satiric writing take on its full meaning: a meaning divided between its often avant-garde style and its antimodernist ideology. Discussing Lewis's much earlier vorticist paintings, Tom Normand suggests that in Lewis's visual works a similar disjunction of style and rhetorical address can be detected. Already by 1912-1913, Normand argues, Lewis's cubo-futurist vocabulary stood in tension with his developing theoretical analysis, his political and philosophical worldview that opposed futurism's vitalistic celebration of modern urban life. In Lewis's vorti-
cist works, Normand concludes, the "formalist syntax was always qualified by a specific theoretical grammar." If during the 1920s and 1930s, Lewis would in fact deepen and extend this "theoretical grammar" which undergirded both his painting and writing, he would also increasingly inflect his "formalist syntax" through polemical clashes and crashes with its discursive context. As Lewis engaged more and more in the conflict of his own ideas with those of his context, the status of the manifest texts in which "walking ideas" collided with one another became increasingly uncertain. Lewis's texts themselves represented only a limited, easily deceptive part of the meaning of the "works" as whole. For the total works, Lewis's procedures suggest, include both the hidden polemical occasions of the texts and the aftereffects of their release, the echoing "report" that he explicitly conspired to heighten and extend. The work's meaning encompasses both an embedded structure of ideas and ideology, which might contradict the surface meaning of the text, and a dialogical, polemical relation to a context of external discourses surrounding the text. While this layered structure is hardly unique to Lewis's text (it may, indeed, be universal), Lewis is singular among Anglo-American modernists in his insistence on the violent separation of these domains and in his exacerbation to the breaking point of the potential dissonance between them.
As might be expected, Lewis's semiallegorical associations of his own career with large-scale social history tell only part of the story. The evidence of Lewis's letters and the excellent philological material in Paul Edwards's reedited Time and Western Man make it possible to describe the immediate process by which Lewis developed his critique of modernism and evolved the critical orientation of his later fiction. For Edwards, Lewis's publication of "The Revolutionary Simpleton," first in The Enemy in January 1927 and then again the following year as the first part of Time and Western Man , is not simply an index of Lewis's disenchantment with modernism; it is also the very act by which Lewis broke with its artistic cadre. In "The Revolutionary Simpleton," Lewis delivered a series of blistering attacks on Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Anita Loos, Charlie Chaplin, Ernst Walsh, and other important figures of the modernist movement. If Lewis viewed 1926 as a pivotal year in his career, this publication played a substantial role in its drama.
The years following the war saw the convergence of several currents in Lewis's life, work, and thinking. First, there was a crucial shift in the center of gravity in his creative life from painting to writing and a concomitant change of focus in Lewis's artistic politics. This transition was marked by three main phases: a period of relative hiatus in the years immediately following the war (about 1918-1921); Lewis's commencement of a large-scale work, The Man of the World , in 1922 and the composition of a philosophically oriented but generically undifferentiated mass of prose between 1922 and 1925; and his segmenting and rewriting of this aggregate as independent books from 1925 to 1928. In this last phase, Lewis also revised and republished his early works The Wild Body and Tarr ; his other major early text, The Enemy of the Stars , reappeared in revised form in 1932.
A letter to Ezra Pound dated 29 April 1925 suggests the scope of Lewis's Man of the World at this time and the segmenting of that work which would form the basis of the majority of Lewis's published books in the latter half of the 1920s. Lewis describes how, having failed with one publisher, he changed his mind about publishing The Man of the World as a single five-hundred-thousand-word book. It would have to be broken up into separate volumes, a task fortunately requiring little rewriting, since the original form of the work lent itself to this partitioning: "In each part of the original book I had repeated the initial argument, associating it with the new evidence provided by the particular material of each part." Lewis goes on to enumerate the projected series of works:
One of them . . . is to be printed by Macalmon [McAlmon]. That is about the question of CLASS, but I have not got a title for it yet. There is a hundred thousand word volume, called The Lion and the Fox about Shakespeare, principally. There is one called Sub Persona Infantis which deals with a particular phase . . . of the contemporary sensibility: The Shaman about exoliti & sex-transformation. The Politics of the Personality (100 thousand) principally evidence of philosophy, one (100 thousand) called The Politics of Philistia & one called The Strategy of Defeat (40 thousand). Then there are z vols. (not of course part of the Man of the World) of The Apes of God (fiction) the first of which is nearly done. Joint (sketched & partly done) Archie (complete, thirty, or forty thousand).— The Great Fish Jesus Christ (45 thousand). (P/L , 144-145)
Notable are both Lewis's encyclopedic ambition and the implied links his monumental work made between class, race, age, and sexuality in the realms of social life, politics, philosophy, and culture. Moreover,
Lewis's mention of the works of fiction that are not part of The Man of the World nonetheless sets the satires and fiction in the ideational cosmos formed by it, while the fiction represents a more immediate testing ground for philosophical and political ideas. At the same time, Lewis began casting about for a publisher to reissue the vorticist drama Enemy of the Stars , now carrying a forty-thousand-word essay in tow. As with the Man of the World material, Lewis increasingly tied his literary works to his new commitment to theorize and polemicize directly about his social context.
The three years prior to the break in 1927 not only saw the articulation of The Man of the World into several separate volumes of key importance in Lewis's corpus; they also constituted a period of intensive contact between Lewis and his modernist peers, especially those of the Anglo-American expatriate scene in Paris. Lewis's connections at this time included not just the "men of 1914"—Joyce, Eliot, and Pound—with whom he is often associated in literary history and criticism, but also less olympian figures who were nonetheless integral to the financial and publication infrastructure of Paris-based modernism: Ernst Walsh (editor of This Quarter ); Winifred Ellerman (known as "Bryher," companion of the poet H.D., novelist, and wealthy supporter of many artistic and political causes); and Robert McAlmon (novelist and editor of the Contact Press and Journal). Prior to his permanent departure for Italy late in 1924 (and by correspondence afterward), Pound facilitated Lewis's approach to the Parisian circles, but he conducted his well-meant campaigns in ways guaranteed to sour his touchy friend on the whole affair. In particular, Pound sought to maintain the division of labor between Lewis as the genius of the visual arts and the other men of 1914 as the genii of the word. As Paul Edwards notes, "Pound, generous as always, wanted to 'sell' Lewis to This Quarter as an avant-garde painter, but this would be for Lewis only a distraction from his new career as a writer. He did not welcome such a revival of his earlier role, in which he had been thwarted in England, he believed, by the machinations of Bloomsbury." Pound unsuccessfully tried to convince Lewis, who for his part was interested in publishing his new prose, that his interest in Lewis's visual artwork was not simply a scheme to reject his writing: "This does not mean that they wont [sic] use and pay for your text, but it does mean that they are definitely ready to lay out on doing a decent W.L. art supplement; you may remember, or you mayn't, that I tried to get Lane et al. to take a book on you, by me, WITH illustrations back in 16 or 17." Pound's damage control for
This Quarter just compounded the perceived slight for Lewis. For not only did Pound's well-meaning efforts harken back nostalgically to the short-lived vorticist community (in "The Revolutionary Simpleton," Lewis would attack Pound as "A Man in Love with the Past"). It also failed to acknowledge Lewis's reemergence as a writer and cultural critic, engaged centrally with the practice and politics of literature in the postwar period. Lewis responded with characteristic testiness: "Dear E.P I do not want a 'Lewis number' or anything of that sort in This Quarter or anywhere else, at this moment. My reasons are my own affair, although I indicated them as much as was necessary. Have I said this to you or not?" Following a series of petty quarrels and more serious disagreements of outlook with Walsh, McAlmon, and Pound himself, Lewis definitively closed this chapter of his career with his publication of "The Revolutionary Simpleton."
Two characteristic expressions of Lewis's displacement of modernist poetics can be discovered in his fiction of the late twenties and thirties. In predominantly satiric works like The Childermass and The Apes of God , Lewis employs modernist techniques while divesting them of their thematic legitimation. They appear as mechanical and hollow, absurdly functional within the more general social and political farce portrayed in his books. These techniques are highly "inorganic" to Lewis's texts: they are not clearly motivated by events or characters and thus often appear like tics and mannerisms erupting into the text; nor are they justified by an overriding stylistic unity, as are the idiosyncratic sentence forms in James's The Golden Bowl , Lawrence's The Rainbow , Hemingway's early stories, or perhaps even Lewis's own Tarr .
In later works like The Revenge for Love and The Vulgar Streak , Lewis apparently renounces the disruptions of grammatical and narrative syntax characteristic of his earlier prose and returns in long stretches to something resembling classical realist style. While it would be possible to see this return to order in the fiction as congruent with Lewis's desire for order in the political arena, this view would both oversimplify the relation of literary form to politics and mischaracterize Lewis's prose of this time. On the one hand, the change in style does reflect Lewis's heightened rhetorical concern to establish his literary work within a broader social context (and not just political, but also commercial). On
the other hand, I want to suggest that this "realism," this return to certain "naturalist" conventions, is not as straightforward as it might first appear. For the world it "realistically" depicts is a universally de-realized one, one permeated by mimicry, counterfeit, diversion, imposture, and spectacle: the condition of generalized mimetism. The apparent transparency of these works is an unsettling, uncanny fiction of reference—not because the texts disrupt referentiality, like the vorticist montage text The Enemy of the Stars , but because the referent is explicitly thematized by the text as a mirage. More than "realist," these works are "hyper-realist"; if in a certain sense "naturalist," they nevertheless reflect a simulacral nature, a denatured reality of spectacles, codes, and models.
Yet while one can identify a certain shift from the novels of the late twenties to the novels of the thirties, the distinction should not be exaggerated. These two phases of Lewis's writing represent inflections and developments within a common late modernist aesthetic, rather than different modes altogether. In my view, the relevant divisions in Lewis's corpus are not between an "experimental" phase (ending in the twenties) and a return to "realism" (beginning in the thirties) but rather between the earlier work up to Tarr , the long middle phase including the majority of Lewis's fiction and criticism, and his partial abrogation of satire in the two late novels with which he attempted to complete The Human Age ( Monstre Gai and Malign Fiesta ), twenty-five years after the first installment (The Childermass ) appeared. Within the middle period, embracing the work of the late twenties and thirties along with much of Lewis's later work, there are a number of fundamental continuities, despite the differences in surface texture and style.
In any case, the shift that occurred across the divide of 1926-1927 did register itself in Lewis's writing in points of style and general approach, but still more decisively in the relation of Lewis's literary works to the surrounding social and discursive context. In particular, Lewis sought to engage as fully as possible the political, personal, and commercial vectors of his works, understanding such "contextual" points of reference as not merely contingent to the work's artistic structure and meaning but rather as essential to its artistic design. Paul Edwards argues that Lewis refracts the formal elements of modernism through his distinct, "rhetorical" focus: "The recognizable features of a standard 'Modernist' aesthetic are present . . . but transformed by the inclusion . . . of ideological awareness." Edwards goes on to note that Lewis's reputation has suffered for this ideological concern: "One reason for the lack of recognition of Lewis's Modernist aesthetic is that the
idea of the creation of a work of art as (at least partly) a self-conscious ideological critique of society is one that has a place in Marxist aesthetics, but not, until recently, in the Modernist tradition." One discerns in the development of Lewis's work over the twenties and early thirties a decisive rethinking of the social and political role of the category of form , a category central to the aesthetic ideology of modernism, and his desire to consider form primarily as a rhetorically and politically effective artistic means.
Modernist form, as Ferenc Fehér suggests, has a paradoxical double-ness in its relation to ideology. It at once disavows it and attempts to embody it sensuously: "This art is thoroughly free of ideology (tolerating no interpretations, refuting all 'ideal content' imposed on it), and at the same time it is thoroughly ideological (in so far as the 'form,' the formed world, is, so to speak, a sensualized theorem)." In its difficulty and singularity, the modernist work points to the rupture between itself and the ideological atmosphere of its readers. In its appeal to sensuous immediacy, however, it implicitly projects a reconciliation with that audience, in a utopian future perfect when it will have transformed or supplanted that ideology and can be understood transparently.
The reverse side of this utopian impulse in modernism is, however, as Stephen Spender suggests, a restriction of literature's engagement with topical, ideological issues:
Forster's antipolitics, antipower, anti-business attitude is implicit also in the novels of D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, and Aldous Huxley, which have so little else in common. The fact is that the separation of the world of private values imagined in art from the world of the public values of business, science, politics was an essential part of the victory of the generation for whom "the world changed in 1910." . . . The aim of D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf was to create characters who were isolated creatures of unique awareness with sensibility transcending their material circumstances.
At its most involuted, as for example with Woolf's The Waves , this impulse to restrict the field of experience to a succession of unique, lyrically transfigured moments became the self-reflexive thematic center and narrative telos of the work. Through her chorus of characters, Woolf decomposed everyday experience into its component sensory atoms (the following scene takes place in the midst of London):
"Look," said Rhoda; "listen. Look how the light becomes richer, second by second, and bloom and ripeness lie everywhere; and our eyes, as they range
round this room with all its tables, seem to push through curtains of colour, red, orange, umber and queer ambiguous tints, which yield like veils and close behind them, and one thing melts into another."
"Yes," said Jinny, "our senses have widened. Membranes, webs of nerve that lay white and limp, have filled and spread themselves and float round us like filaments, making the air tangible and catching in them far-away sounds unheard before."
This intense abstraction from (or purification of) everyday experience placed rigid constraints on the writer, however, in key areas like choice of diction, plotting, character type, and thematic range. While Woolf's strong political concerns are in no way absent from The Waves , the novel's indirection and formal self-reflexivity does strongly affect the discursive range and rhetorical force with which these concerns can be expressed. A "formalist" reading of the book that fails to perceive its political aspects would be, of course, insufficient; yet given the dense thickets of prose through which these concerns must fight their way to the attention of a reader, such a reading could hardly be called aberrant. Quite the contrary, most remarkable is the degree to which the rich and detailed critical analysis that Woolf's work has garnered has become naturalized, for academic readers at least. To win some insight into how much effort has been required to educe the political content from Woolf's difficult texts, it is instructive to imagine oneself approaching a work like The Waves without this critical preparation of the ground.
Spender's remarks on Woolf's generation, of course, also fall short generally of capturing the genuinely political significance of modernism's displacement of "business, science, and politics" from the more forthright treatment they had received in Edwardian naturalism to the margins and even beyond. Recent critics of modernism, following the lead, above all, of the negative aesthetics of Theodor Adorno, have emphasized the political nature of this apparent "withdrawal" through form. Peter Nicholls, for example, suggests that early modernists saw in formal artifice a critical purchase on forms of sociality that were suspect or even unendurable for them. Their commitment to form was in no way "apolitical formalism" but precisely an investment of political concerns in a practice and ideology of artistic form: "It was Baudelaire's generation which took the first step toward a substitution of the aesthetic for 'the lost terrain of social representation.' This is not to suggest that writers suddenly ceased to be oppositional, but rather that the ground of opposition shifted from political rhetoric and
polemic to literary 'style.' " Nicholls goes on to argue that the symbolist tendencies in modernism, which had the most radical investment in form and artifice, should ultimately be understood as a form of social protest; for through their formal concerns the symbolists sought "to open up the divisions in subjectivity in order to call into question bourgeois ideals of rational progress and self-presence" (98). Analogously, Astradur Eysteinsson has identified modernism's political function as that of "interrupting" social modernization and rationalization and as putting brakes on the compulsory adaptation of subjective expressions to the social context in which they appear. "In refusing to communicate according to established socio-semiotic contracts," he concludes, the interruptive practices of modernism "imply that there are other modes of communication to be looked for, or even some other modernity to be created." Bob Perelman, in The Trouble with Genius , has studied the formal innovations of Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky as manifestations of a paradoxically political rhetoric of "genius," as expressions of their common attempt to relate to their public context through a language that proves its legitimate claim to be heard by scorning all conventions of effective public and commercial address. Modernist form, in Perelman's view, is not so much apolitical as impossibly political.
Though certainly steeped in modernism's formal innovations, Lewis rejected the modernist politics of form : the investment in form as the primary mediation between the writer and his or her political, ideological, and social environment. Accordingly, Lewis displaces many of the central concerns evinced by modernist writers to justify their concentration on form, an emphasis he saw as an obstacle to the writer's critical engagement of the intellect. High modernism's emphasis on interiority; its appeal to allusive "depth" and "roundness" of character; its obsessive concern with temporality and history; its foregrounding of the ways that events are psychologically mediated; its valorizing of the unique over the commonplace or stereotype; its knotty quandaries about the relation of mind and language to the world—none of these can be said to characterize Lewis's fiction, except in its parodic reference to modernist works. But above all, Lewis disavowed the utopian aspiration implicit in modernist form that the work might one day be reconciled with its audience. In polemical contrast, he set himself in direct, intransigent relation to the ideological climate of his time.
When compared to the great high modernist prose writers, Lewis
seems accordingly unconcerned with formal innovation or complexity as such. As Bernard Lafourcade has argued,
Unlike most of his contemporaries, Lewis cannot be said to be a great experimentalist or innovator in the art of the novel. The septenary construction of both Tarr and The Revenge for Love or the duodecimal structure of Snooty Baronet are significant but far less vital for the success of the novels than is the truly vorticist ternary structure of To the Lighthouse , the immensely ambitious structure of Ulysses or the paradoxical combinations typical of Faulkner's books (think of Wild Palms or Requiem for a Nun ).
Yet while Lafourcade's observation is accurate, Lewis's novels could nevertheless hardly be described as conventional. Their literary center of gravity, however, lies not in the typically modernist engrossment with form but rather with a renewed engagement with figurality and rhetoric. For Lewis, Daniel Schenker writes, "Art does have a relationship to the world . . . but this relationship is more instrumental or rhetorical than mimetic. Thus, a fictional creation's effect upon its environment is more important than either its adherence to a canon of verisimilitude or its infidelity to inherent formal principles."
Not just Lewis's positive ideological interest, but also his evident abandonment of modernist formal principles in his fiction may account for his relatively low regard among critics attached to high-modernist standards. Lewis's attempt to establish his literary art on different grounds than those of his modernist peers puts him at odds with the evaluative bases of a great deal of twentieth-century Anglo-American criticism, so crucially shaped by modernist writers like T. S. Eliot, the New Critical poets, Yvor Winters, and others. Even critics like Hugh Kenner and Timothy Materer, generally sympathetic to Lewis, find his work falling short of greatness when measured against high-modernist writing. Materer, for example, judges Lewis's late modernist works on evaluative criteria that, in their appeal to vitality, roundness, and human depth, might have come straight out of E. M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel:
When one compares Lewis's characters to those of D. H. Lawrence and James Joyce, his creative limitation is evident. One might compare characters like Tarr, Percy Hardcaster, and René Harding to Joyce's Stephen Dedalus and Lawrence's Gerald Crich as studies in the corrosive effects of pride and intellectuality. However, Lewis does not have the complementary power to create a "woman in love" like Ursula Brangwen, or a fully realized young man like Paul Morel, or a grossly material but deeply human
character like Leopold Bloom. . . . In an atmosphere flooded with the "laughing gas of the abyss," all his characters live their fictional lives a bit groggily.
One would hardly want to deny, I think, that most readers will find these characters of Lawrence and Joyce more sympathetic than most of Lewis's (though what of Lawrence's cruel, quasi-allegorical puppet, Clifford Chatterley? what of Aaron or of Kangaroo?). As a reader not wholly insensible to the attractions of Lawrence's and Joyce's best characters, I am nevertheless led to wonder whether such judgments are really cogent as criticism. Once we leave the Forsterian reading room in which all novelists write their books simultaneously in a trance of inspiration, questions of history, intention, and literary politics must again be taken up. And here it seems necessary to recall that if Lewis never managed to create a character like those of Lawrence and Joyce, it is because he perhaps never intended to, and certainly not by the midtwenties, when he had set himself the task of satirically debunking modernist prose. It seems beside the point to judge the "shortcomings" of Lewis's work according to the evaluative criteria of high modernism, a literary poetics that Lewis had himself explicitly rejected.
I want to turn at this point from discussing the general outlines of Lewis's devaluation of form for contextual efficacy to considering some specific examples by which Lewis's relation to his context may be gauged. I am particularly interested in Lewis's relatively positive attitude toward the commercial dimensions of the work and toward the discourse of advertising, for it is here that the difference of Lewis's late modernist stance emerges most strikingly.
I will commence with the graphic shock of a peculiar juxtaposition. The facing illustrations are intended to suggest the shift in context that has occurred between the 1914 publication of Lewis vorticist drama Enemy of the Stars in the avant-garde journal Blast and its 1932 republication in book form. As Lewis suggests in his autobiography, the original version of the play was intended to assert and seal his leadership of the avant-garde circle around him. It drew its power and radicality from Lewis's privileged place as a painter, as the visual arts were clearly in advance of literary arts in terms of technical and formal innovation. "My literary contemporaries," Lewis writes, "I looked upon as too bookish
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and not keeping pace with the visual revolution. A kind of play, 'The Enemy of the Stars' (greatly changed later and published in book form) was my attempt to show them the way" (RA , 139). The work was, as Reed Way Dasenbrock suggests, primarily intended as a "gesture," a gesture of artistic genius, the evidence of which lay precisely in the
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formal innovations of Lewis's text: its destruction of narrative, fragmentation of syntax, and employment of typography and spatialized structure as primary vehicles of meaning. The first version of the play appears to be a clear-cut example of the rhetoric of genius that Perelman has identified in Lewis's main rivals in the canon of modernism, Joyce, Stein, and Pound. Indeed, Dasenbrock suggests that the importance and influence of Lewis's play may lie precisely in setting the pace for such "genius writing" as Perelman discusses: "Because of its origins as a polemical demonstration, [Enemy of the Stars ] is a peculiar, almost unreadable work. Nevertheless, it has had . . . a large (if previously undiscovered) impact on other writers. Moreover, its difficult style has been responsible for this influence" (128).
The context of the play's first appearance was, of course, the avant-garde journal Blast . The opening page of Lewis's text announces its tense relation with its context by playing with two distinct senses of the word advertisement : either the foreword of a book (as with the French, avertissement ) or a piece of commercial publicity (as in English). The aggressive typography rhetorically underscores the violent self-"advertisement" of Lewis's work; at the same time, its visual forms refer ironically to the aesthetically untamed formats of popular advertising type. Lewis thus suggests a complex relation of mimesis and critical destruction of the socially given form of advertising. Advertising is at once imitated in its abstract elements—its graphic shape and typographical vigor, its "loud" tone—and shattered by a syntax, diction, and content that could hardly be conducive to the commercial aims of the form. To take one line of the play: "A leaden gob, slipped at zenith, first drop of violent night, spreads cataclysmically in harsh water of coming. Caustic Reckett's stain." Could this be understood as an "advertisement" for a product, for instance "Reckett's stain"? The language of the "advertisement" would seem to have the very qualities conveyed by the passage about the "product": it is a leaden, violent, harsh, caustic stain of words on the page. "Who would like to buy? "—this "ad" sneers at its consumer. At the level of style the passage is above all characterized by the explosive tension between the various dimensions of the text: discursive, rhythmic, syntactical, lexical, tropological, and referential. It is this dissonance, this interference—and not a "message"—that is first and foremost communicated by the passage. In this first version of Enemy of the Stars , thus, Lewis has absorbed the advertising message into the formal and social
mechanisms of the avant-garde work, subjecting it to the rhetorical energies of vorticist aggression.
The later, book version of the play entered into a radically different context. The war had, as Lewis himself testified, stolen the thunder of Blast . If the first issue, with its loud red cover and violent rhetoric, could seem somewhat prophetic of the coming conflict, the second and final issue, the so-called War Number, had been but a pale echo of the first. Still more important, however, by the republication in 1932, Lewis had emerged as a major writer and critic, while his role as a painter had diminished. The republication followed Lewis's antimodernist polemics in The Art of Being Ruled and Time and Western Man and appeared in the immediate wake of Lewis's two most notorious (and personally damaging) books: his satirical novel The Apes of God and his book Hitler , which had appeared in article form in Time and Tide in 1931. Dasenbrock characterizes the shift from the 1914 to the 1932 text as one of "restoration"—restoration of narrative, of syntactic continuity, indeed, of a suppressed (sub)text: "The 1932 text . . . reveals that Lewis deliberately disfigured the narrative in 1914. He had a coherent, legible narrative in mind but rewrote the play suppressing the elements that would have allowed a reader to follow that narrative readily. Only in 1932 did Lewis make available the parallel text that enabled readers to make sense of Enemy of the Stars , but by then no one was particularly interested" (134). Obviously, one aspect of this "return to narrative" is Lewis's increasing emphasis on rhetorical and ideological effectiveness and his accompanying devaluation of "form"; from the rigorous strictures he placed on the modernism of his peers, Lewis did not spare even his own earlier work. Yet Lewis's interest in this "restoration" is not only political, it is also aimed at finding a place for his work within the commercial and critical context. A reading of the advertisement for Enemy of the Stars in the 23 July 1932 issue of Time and Tide (where Lewis was a regular contributor, including of the articles on Hitler) makes this point almost too obviously (see fig. 5).
In this advertisement, Lewis's book is spatially apposed to the financial self-help book on the left of the page, as well as to the high-culture publication of Chopin's Letters with which it shares the Desmond Harmsworth box. Within the ad for Lewis's book is included a quote, which itself serves to announce the forthcoming critical work of Hugh Gordon Porteus (Wyndham Lewis: A Discursive Exposition ) and to signify Lewis's importance as a writer, precisely because he is the object of
a critical monograph. The typography and layout and the disjunctive relation of registers could, indeed, have made this advertising page at home in the original Blast . But now, in 1932, it is not the text but the context of discourse within which the text as salable book appears that speaks the graphic language of the avant-garde. Whereas the early version of the text absorbed and shattered the social forms of advertising in the avant-garde work, here the avant-garde work has been reab-sorbed by the discourses of the context, made to recirculate in the channels of commerce and publicity that the Blast version of Enemy had so aggressively displaced onto its avant-garde "stage."
This resocialization of the untamed avant-garde work was far from unintended. It followed consistently from Lewis's reexamination of modernist poetics. One of the most poignant—and comical—examples of this reexamination can be seen in Lewis's deluded but symptomatically important commercial schemes for the marketing of his magnum opus, The Apes of God . In Lewis's thinking about the book as material artifact, as well as in his formal, stylistic, and thematic concerns, The Apes of God represented a major shift from the presuppositions of modernist aesthetics.
While critics have become increasingly aware of the extent of the complex divergence between the aesthetic ideology of modernism and modernist writers' practical manipulation of publicity, few would be prepared to suggest that the idea of writing as an autonomous, professional calling standing over and against commercial vulgarization is not integral to modernist poetics and practice. One can see, for example, Pound's ambivalent relation to publicity in a 1914 squabble with Amy Lowell over the public image of imagism. Lowell had published an advertisement for her book Sword Blades and Poppy Seed which read: "Of the poets who to-day are doing the interesting and original work, there is no more striking and unique figure than Amy Lowell. The foremost member of the 'Imagists'—a group of poets that includes William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound, Ford Maalox Hueffer—she has won wide recognition for her writing in new and free forms of poetical expression." Pound raised a fuss about the ad both to Harriet Monroe, editor of Poetry , and to Lowell herself. To Monroe he wrote:
As to Amy's advertisement. It is, of course, comic. On the other hand, it is outrageous. . . .
If it dealt with biscuits or a brand of sardines [the publisher, Essenwei]n
and possibly the magazines publishing the adv. would be liable to prosecution. (43)
To Lowell, referring to the ad, Pound carped in a similar but expanded vein:
In view of the above arrant charlatanism on the part of your publishers, I think you must now admit that I was quite right in refusing to join you in any scheme for turning Los Imagistes into an uncritical democracy with you as intermediary between it and the printers.
[. . . .]
I don't suppose any one will sue you for libel; it is too expensive. If your publishers "of good standing" tried to advertise cement or soap in this manner they would certainly be sued. . .
P.S. I notice that the canny [Essenwei]n in his ad refrains from giving a leg up to any of the less well known members of the school who might have received a slight benefit from it. (44)
I have quoted at length, because these letters bring to the fore the essence of Pound's relation to publicity and professionalism. First, Pound insists on the equal status of poetry as a professional activity. It should, Pound ironically implies, be accorded equal dignity as factory work and be subject to at least the same protection under the law as industrial and consumer products (biscuits, sardines, cement, soap). In apposing it to such humble goods, it is the autonomy of poetry Pound is defending, however, not its lowly everydayness, as for example Eric Satie did when he proposed to write "furniture music." Second, Pound clearly objects to the vulgar commercialism and self-serving character of Lowell's advertisement. It is advancing Lowell, not writing as such, not even the group of writers (viz. his complaint that only the best-known writers were mentioned). Finally, while publicity is legitimate as a tactic for gaining recognition in a society that values poetry less than sardines and soap, it also threatens the aristocratic logic by which poetry must advance. If publicity is to be used, its employment is nonetheless dangerous and must be carefully policed. If it takes on a logic of its own, unsubordinated to the small group's end, it can lead to "uncritical democracy," the loss of clear boundaries between the public and the professional elite of poets and hence the decline in the quality of the product.
Against this backdrop of his friend's coherent but fraught attitude toward publicity, Wyndham Lewis's schemes for selling The Apes of God appear all the more striking. Lewis planned what he referred to as a
"speak-easy" edition of his massive satire, to be published by the Arthur Press and priced at an inexpensive 7/6d. While this edition never appeared, the following circular letter, surely composed by Lewis himself, has been preserved:
We are shortly publishing a popular edition of Mr. Wyndham Lewis's novel, The Apes of God , probably at 7/6d. We are also publishing it with advertisements . The adverts. will not be confined to those of publishers and bookshops. We are including other adverts. of Steamship Lines, tooth-pastes, and lawn mowers.
This will be the first novel since the age of Dickens to carry advertisements. It will be a unique event in the publishing world . It is certain to arouse a great deal of interest and result in a wide publicity: and at the above price the book is certain to be very widely read.
The charge for a whole page is £5, a half page £2.10.0 We hope you will take this unusual opportunity of advertising in a more permanent form than the newspaper or the magazine offers—which once read is thrown away. For one person who reads any given copy of a magazine, a hundred read any given copy of a book .
As the time is short before the date fixed for our going to press, we hope you will send us your copy at once.
THE ARTHUR PRESS (Letters , 196-197)
This astonishing document reveals the degree to which Lewis was not only willing to acquiesce to the logic of publicity, but was actively attempting to meet commercialized, commodified discourse on its own terms. To sell Apes and advance his position against those attacked in the book, Lewis was projecting an inexpensive edition, which in turn committed him to selling advertising. The book itself would become the site of commercial exchange, as typographical space was divvied up at so much a page.
Still more striking, however, are the arguments with which Lewis surrounds these facts. First, he wants to break free of the book world (booksellers and publishers) and enter into the much wider industrial and consumer economies: "Steamship Lines, tooth-pastes, and lawn mowers." This goes well beyond Pound's assertions of the rights of poetry to be treated at least as well as sardines. Lewis's claim is both less rhetorical and more far-reaching. He is not ironically commenting on how little recognition his work can gain in a commodified world but is rather seriously staking a claim within the very domain of commerce. Moreover, while Lewis, like earlier avant-gardists, sets his book against
the commodified medium of the newspaper, his gesture is otherwise quite different. It is not intended, as was the case with Mallarmé, to assert the purity of his writing against the impurity of commercial discourse, nor even, as with Joyce in Ulysses , to create an ironic tension between the cited newspaper speech and the grand literary tapestry within which it appears. On the contrary, in his competition with the newspaper, Lewis asserts the superiority of the book precisely on the newspaper's own terrain: as an effective medium of publicity . Lewis does not argue that the book is the repository of more enduring cultural values and is therefore superior to the throwaway writing in the newspaper. Rather, it is that the material form of the writing, as preserved in books, is more enduring, thus allowing it to be seen by more people for a longer cycle of circulation. Hence, Lewis concludes, advertising in books should prove more successful than newspaper ads. In setting himself up as a latter-day heir of the "age of Dickens," finally, Lewis embraces precisely the most commodified aspects of literary production in that day: subscriptions, serial production, advertisement, the thoroughgoing commercialization of authorship. It is these features of the book, before even its content is considered, which will make Apes a "unique event in the publishing world."
Of course, the scheme, and what seems to have been Lewis's sincere hopes for it, was ridiculously overblown. One can hardly imagine Lloyd's of London taking out a full-pager to precede the "Lesbian Ape" or the "Ape-Flagellant" chapters of Lewis's novel! But a small vestige of the plan remained in the second printing of the 1931 Nash and Grayson trade edition (the Arthur Press 1930 collector's edition of 750 copies preceded this edition). The verso of the title page was altered to register its commercial status. It reads: "First Cheap Edition / Published November 1931 / Second Impression . . . March 1932. "
Lewis saw in modernism, with its disaggregation of the sensorial manifold and its exaggerated concern with subjectivity, a passive reflection of the changes in the object world, the collapse of differences and the incorporation of spectacle into the texture of reality. "Oh it is a wild life that we live in the near West, between one apocalypse and another!" he wrote in his 1927 polemic, Paleface . "So we return to the central problem of our 'subjectivity,' which is what we have in the place of our lost
sense, and which is the name by which our condition goes." Lewis's parodic adoption of modernist techniques in his works of the twenties and early thirties focused attention on the laughable paroxysms of subjectivity as it attempts to cope with a new denatured reality, while the more transparent countermodernism of the later works approached the problematic transparency of the spectacle world more directly.
Realism and satiric deformation, moreover, have a very fluid relation in Lewis's work. As Northrop Frye notes in a hostile but perceptive review, Lewis's "realism" or "naturalism" very quickly shades over into satiric phantasmagoria: "One would expect his 'external' approach to have some affinity with realism, as in Flaubert; but anything like a setting in a Lewis satire becomes a fantasy of Grand Guignol proportions. The Parisian left bank in Tarr , the Bloomsbury-Chelsea London of The Apes of God , the Toronto of Self-Condemned (if the reader will accept the opinion of a reviewer who lives there) are all as far out of this world as the limbo of The Human Age ." Lewis, in fact, anticipated Frye's criticism and discussed it in Men Without Art . In the chapter entitled "Mr. Wyndham Lewis, 'Personal-Appearance' Artist," he claims that a naturalism based on natural scientific observation would amount in effect to satire. "Satire in reality often is nothing but the truth, " he writes, "the truth, in fact, of Natural Science. That objective, non-emotional truth of the scientific intelligence sometimes takes on the exuberant sensuous quality of creative art: then it is very apt to be called 'Satire,' for it has been bent not so much upon pleasing as upon being true" (MWA , 99). He considers this problem at length in the chapter that follows, entitled "Is Satire Real?" Here he argues that satire, rather than being judged by moral criteria, as good or bad, would be better judged as "real" or "unreal" (MWA , 111). In his conception of a satiric mode adequate to his time, Lewis attempts to negotiate a relation between satire and realism, in which the satirist's mortifying eye would serve as an accurate instrument for capturing the reality of the day. I would add that Lewis self-consciously blurs the antipodes of realism and satiric fantasy to foreground the progressive de-realization of the social world. Realist representation seizes on that world in all its uncanniness, while satiric fantasy portrays the simulated reality of spectacle more truly than a more conventional "realism" could.
In The Apes of God , for example, different modulations of a single description can alternate between realist description, deliberate distortion, and a mixture of the two in Lewis's detached "scientific" abstractions. Thus, for example, in Lewis's slow-motion account of the ninety-
year-old, corpulent Lady Fredigonde as she moves from one chair to another, these different modes alternate in rapid succession. Lewis begins with a neutralized physical description, which, while technically accurate, is also willfully distant from its human object. Fredigonde rises from her chair:
Without fuss the two masses came apart. They were cut open into two pieces. As her body came away from the dense bolsters of its cyclopean cradle, out into space, the skimpy alpaca forearm of the pries fly Bridget, a delicate splint, pressed in against the small of the four-square back. It was applied above the region where the mid-victorian wasp-waist lay buffed in adipose. (AOG , 22)
After the flat abstraction of the two first sentences, which could appear without incongruity in an account of a surgical operation, a more satirical vocabulary and viewpoint begins to emerge: the "cyclopean" proportions of the Lady played off against the "delicate splint" of her servant's arm, the "wasp-waist" of days gone by against the "four-square back" of latter days.
This satiric element is heightened in the next paragraph. As her body totters in her rise, so too Lewis's sentences become more centrifugal and energized:
The unsteady solid rose a few inches, like the levitation of a narwhal. . . . Something imperfectly animate had cast off from a portion of its self. It was departing, with a grim paralytic toddle, elsewhere.
The socket of the enormous chair yawned just short of her hindparts. It was a sort of shell that had been, according to some natural law, suddenly vacated by its animal. But this occupant, who never went far, moved from trough to trough—another everywhere stood hollow and ready throughout the compartments of its elaborate animal dwelling. (AOG , 22-23)
Here the satiric effect depends not simply on the abstraction and accentuation of physical characteristics but on the employment of metaphor: Fredigonde as a narwhal or some other lumbering, sedentary animal. In a narrow sense, Lewis "estranges" or "defamiliarizes" his object, but without any of the positive intention that Viktor Shklovsky attributed to this process.  Lewis's estranging descriptions do not aim to exhibit the autonomous workings of the form-giving, creative mind but rather to find some ground external to it. At best, they work to establish , through a distancing laughter, some objective consistency for characters that might otherwise appear mere shadows of Lewis's all-too-personal aversions.
As Fredigonde finds her destination and sits down again, Lewis accordingly lowers the satiric temperature, relinquishing the animal comparison and returning to a more straightforward description:
She lowered her body into its appointed cavity, in the theatrical illumination, ounce by ounce . . . at last riveted as though by suction within its elastic crater, corseted by its mattresses of silk from waist to bottom, one large feeble arm riding the stiff billows of its substantial fluted brim. (AOG , 23)
Although the figural language of "crater" and "billows" retains the afterimage of Lewis's former magnifications of scale, nothing in this passage would be out of place in a conventional realist novel.
Despite their stylistic differences, none of the passages quoted above presents any particular difficulty in terms of a primary locus for Lewis's early literary experimentation, the syntax. Unlike the vorticist prose of The Enemy of the Stars , the manifestos in Blast , and the 1918 edition of Tarr , this prose uses sentences with angular but grammatically correct constructions. After the first Tarr , as Dasenbrock points out, Lewis's "locus of innovation" is not "the individual sentence or the place where sentences join, but something much broader, the formal design of the entire novel." Dasenbrock demonstrates the predominance of a circular pattern in Lewis's large-scale form, a circle that does not close but returns to the starting point with its characters dead, damaged, or hollowed out. (I think this pattern might be best described as a spiral, which is a figure of entropy.) This pattern is shared, he shows, by The Apes of God (written in the late twenties), The Revenge for Love (the thirties), and Self-Condemned (the fifties). The passages quoted above from The Apes of God , however, suggest another "locus of innovation" at the micrological level, working within the paragraph and even within single sentences from time to time. I would describe this technique as Lewis's destabilizing the virtual spatiality of narration and rhetorical address—the distances and proximities implicit in the notion of "perspective" or "point of view"—and hence his disrupting the reader's ability to interpret literary utterances anthropomorphically, as the words of fictional persons.
Douglas Messerli has noted the extent to which the mediation of events through the consciousness of character-personae was, after James, canonized both in the practice of modernist writing and in the
theory of the modern novel by Percy Lubbock, Virginia Woolf, and others. The use of character-personae allows the modern novelist to handle two narrational problems with a single technique. On the one hand, the character-persona allows subjectivity to be suggested and its qualities to be indirectly communicated to readers; a reader senses the "reflecting" character's generosity or interestedness, fear or decisiveness, self-repression or emotional growth, by careful attention to the specific reflection given. On the other hand, such a character also allows a deft management of "deixis," the written delineation of temporal and spatial relations that in nonwritten discourse could be given by reference to a context: before and after, outside and inside, near and far, and the like. The use of character-personae implies their "placement" as observers and narrators in a web of relations with a real and metaphorical "position." This positioning involves the characters' inclusion and exclusion from conversations, absence or presence at events, their proximity and distance from events and other characters, the transparency and opacity of the spaces within which events occur, and so on. Any and all of these aspects can enter into the author's manipulation of point-of-view techniques to create narrative tension and psychological depth. Analogously, the use of narrative personae serves to put the author at an ironic "distance" from his characters and their acts and hence from the reader as well; the reader must negotiate between identificatory intimacy with the characters and critical detachment analogous to the author's ironic withdrawal.
In Messerli's view, however, certain authors contemporaneous with modernism, most notably Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, and Wyndham Lewis, disrupt this implicit web of positions through their direct employment of "voice," which displaces character from the central narrational role it plays in modernist fiction. Lewis's The Apes of God , for example, "often appears to be narrated from the omniscient-objective viewpoint. Characters and their actions are related in such detail, in fact, that one might almost construe the fiction to represent an extreme of realist characterization, were it not that the descriptions are generally stereotypical and are so embellished with minutiae, that they imbue the book with a quality that is almost Baroque." This quality can be further specified in its formal and rhetorical implications. Lewis does not generally narrate through a single persona (SnootyBaronet is an exception and a problematic one at that); nor does he tend to shift between different but coherent points of view linked to personae as did modernist contemporaries like Joyce, Woolf, William Faulkner, or as late as
the fifties, Malcolm Lowry. Yet neither, I would argue, does he simply employ "voice" directly to make moral judgments and advance arguments to his reader, as Messerli suggests. Rather, he intentionally destabilizes the implicit positioning on which either persona-mediated narration or direct address depends. In turn, this erosion of positionality calls in question the conventional "incarnation" of written speech as fictional persons : the basis of the novel as an anthropomorphic genre.
It is easiest to understand this quality of Lewis's prose by contrasting it to the positionality that is metaphorically implicit in the notion of point of view. This notion, David Bordwell has suggested, evolved out of a long history of thinking about narration ultimately reaching back to the narrative use of perspective in Renaissance painting and in Greek theater and extending once again into the photographically registered spaces of cinematic narrative. More literal relations of space and story in pictorial, theatrical, and cinematic representations entered metaphorically into the modern theory of the novel with Henry James's and Percy Lubbock's notion of scenic presentation. Characters and actions were to be narrated as if the book provided a window onto a scene; changes and inflections would be represented by altering the "perspective" on and "distance" from that scene, thus lending the narrative a given "tone" and degree of "reliability." These terms have, moreover, received systematic development in Wayne Booth's influential Rhetoric of Fiction , where different types and degrees of "distance" help to differentiate between reliable and unreliable narrators and to define the relation between the reader and "implied author."
As recent theorists of enunciation in film (where the issue of scene and space is crucial) have suggested, however, theories such as Booth's depend on a slippage from the grammatical positions of "speakers" to actual positions of speaking bodies in space. Put otherwise, narrative theories that use such concepts as "distance," "perspective," and "point of view" metaphorically conflate the purely grammatical "locations of enunciation" with the actual "instances of incarnation." They assume that the grammatical positions of the text coincide with real persons (or, in fiction, personlike "characters"), an anthropomorphic conception that generalizes the situation offace-to-face discourse in which "speaker" and "person" more or less coincide. The notion of "point of view," in turn, derives from this more primary anthropomorphic metaphor between enunciation and incarnation. Novels or films may indeed use "mimicking transcriptions" (751) of oral exchange, thus seeming to fill the locations of enunciation with persons; classical narrative is rooted in
such mimicry of speech. Yet if it has been the desideratum of realistic writing to bring enunciation and incarnation into alignment, this is not the only possibility open to writers. Writers in the tradition of self-reflexive fiction—Cervantes, Swift, Sterne, Beckett, and Nabokov, among others—exacerbate the lack of homology between enunciatory positions and "instances of incarnation" (748), thus underscoring the contrived claim fictions make on readers, their anthropomorphic pretense to have persons dwelling between their covers. Outside the norms of realism, voices may come from no apparent body, a single body may be occupied by multiple voices, or one body may be given the voice of another (as With dubbed films, which represent the zero degree of a technique that may be intensified for more unsettling effects, as when a female character speaks with the voice of a man). Film, indeed, is particularly suited to such techniques, since in contrast to the image track, which establishes a strong sense of a spatial field, cinematic sound evokes very little sense of space or direction in the film spectator. While classical narrative cinema has developed a corpus of techniques like the shot-reverse shot to enforce a relation between sound and image, more innovative cinema can just as easily exploit their divergence. What emerges is a machinery of enunciation, with an unsettling, even derisive relation to the "persons" it suggests without incarnating.
Such a machinery makes its way into The Apes of God as an instance of Lewis's polemical and ideological détournement of modernist literary techniques. Lewis's most urgent polemical intent finds expression in the metaphor of "broadcasting," in which voice is separated from its visible source. This metaphor, in turn, functioned in its context as a swipe at Edith Sitwell, who on 12 June 1923 at the Aeolian Hall had offered a peculiar and scandalous performance of her poems under the title Façade . To the strains of William Walton's score, Sitwell intoned her poems through a Sengerphone, a sound projection device like a megaphone. She was seated behind a curtain with two theatrical masks painted on it, a large Greek-looking mask and a mask of African appearance. The poems sounded from the open mouth of the central, larger mask, while the poet's brother Osbert performed the duties of the master of ceremonies through the mouth of the smaller mask. The poems, Sitwell explained in her autobiography, were primarily experiments in rhythm and sound:
At the time I began to write, a change in the direction, imagery, and rhythms in poetry had become necessary, owing to the rhythmical flaccidity, the ver-
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bal deadness, the dead and expected patterns, of some of the poetry immediately preceding us.
Rhythm is one of the principal translators between dream and reality. Rhythm might be described as, to the world of sound, what light is to the world of sight. It shapes and gives new meaning. . . .
The poems in Façade are, in many cases, virtuoso exercises in technique of an extreme difficulty.
To be heard over Walton's music, Sitwell had to read at the top of her voice, chanting the words in a rapid "musical" way, which simply added to the impression that the whole spectacle was nonsensical. Together with the elaborate gimmickry of the curtain and megaphone, the first performance unleashed a storm of criticism and sneering commentary in the press. As Sitwell remarks wittily, "Never, I should think, was a larger and more imposing shower of brickbats hurled at any new work" (139).
While any claims about the "origins" of a literary work, even one as closely bound to its context as The Apes of God , are dubious, I believe that the issue of "broadcasting" in the novel was in large part occasioned by Lewis's reaction to this work and its performance by Edith and Osbert Sitwell. While Lewis's targeting of the Sitwells was obvious from the very beginning, to my knowledge, the specificity of Lewis's polemic has not been appreciated by either his critics or his enemies;
indeed, it may have failed, insofar as it seems to have been lost on the Sitwells themselves. Yet the association between Sitwell's Façade and Lewis's early drafts of The Apes of God goes beyond mere coincidence of dates. The Aeolian Hall performance was, in fact, the first public performance of Façade ; there had been a previous performance on 24 January 1922 at the house of Osbert Sitwell in Carlyle Square. Lewis, as a letter to Osbert Sitwell dated two days after the Aeolian Hall performance reveals, had attended both performances. "Dear Sitwell," Lewis writes, "I enjoyed Facade, and think it was an improvement on the first performance. When we meet I will tell you" (Lewis to Sitwell, 14 June 1923). As a kind of spy in the inner circle of the Sitwell clique, then, Lewis was as intimately familiar with Edith Sitwell's "scandalous" work as anyone at that time could be. Moreover, it seems that Lewis was already at this point preparing his eventual attack on the Sitwells; his reticence in the note appears significant, for it suggests the unwillingness of the often paranoid and conspiratorial Lewis to provide his erstwhile friend Osbert Sitwell with written proof of his "approval" of Façade , evidence that might be turned back on him after the projected appearance of his satirical blast. In a letter from the late summer or early fall of 1923, in fact, Lewis discussed with T. S. Eliot an overdue chapter of Apes entitled "Mr. Zagreus and the Split Man," which appeared in the February 1924 issue of the Criterion . And in a letter from early in 1924 to Eliot, Lewis refers to "Lord Osmund's Lenten Party," the longest chapter in The Apes of God , and devoted especially to demolishing the three Sitwells; anticipating Eliot's caution, he adds: "In Lord Osmunds Lenten party the name Stillwell (if too suggestive of certain people) could be anything you like" (Lewis to Eliot, ca. March 1924).
Façade's title and performance setup, the poems themselves, and Sitwell's motivating ideas all were as if designed to provoke Lewis's scorn and ire. The work fit perfectly into his picture of upper-class modernist poseurs , who were degrading the sharply visible and intellectual in favor of the musical and rhythmic. The painted facade and megaphone, in turn, with its Wizard of Oz-like aspect, suggested the extension of the aesthetics of Façade into the domain of politics and manipulation of public opinion. Sitwell, in Lewis's view, had provided a glimpse of the new political culture, which would regiment and rule through theatrical, rhythmic spectacle, in which the voice would be technologically processed and amplified ("broadcast") while the actual sources of command would remain hidden behind a painted facade. He took Sitwell's work as a veritable symbol of the emergent political manipulation
through a generalized, pseudomodernist culture industry. About a decade later, F. R. Leavis would take up an analogous, if less elaborated, line of attack on the Sitwells, claiming that they "belonged to the history of publicity," which set off a succession of blows and counterblows in print, drawing in Lewis and Geoffrey Grigson as well. Lewis's letter of 15 December 1934 to the editor of the New Statesman and Nation recurs to Leavis's swipe and once again evokes advertising as the proper domain of artistic "apes" like the Sitwells (as well as of his own satiric menagerie, The Apes of God ). "This trio," Lewis writes, "does 'belong to the history of publicity rather than that of poetry' (cf . Dr. Leavis): and would you expect Milton to be correctly quoted in an advertisement for Massage or Male-corsets—or Gerard Manley Hopkins to appear without printer's errors in a blurb recommending the tired pirouettes of a Society authoress? It would be unreasonable. It would be asking too much of everybody concerned."
As developed at monstrously excessive length in The Apes of God , the separation of voice and body implicit in the primitive curtain and megaphone setup of Façade opened out into a whole "broadcasting" network, implying that Lewis's political analysis went far beyond his immediate polemical occasion. In the completed novel, the technically reproducible and manipulable nature of speech comes to the fore and the notion of literary "character" undergoes a fundamental change, as Lewis's characters reveal themselves to be technological implements through which are expressed hidden political forces. Lewis's characters, indeed, seem to talk out of speakers mounted in their meticulously described bodies, with their voices originating from some point outside the represented scene. This lack of homology between voice and body, which makes his characters and situations so uncanny, has become, with the increasing presence of recording and other media technologies, an everyday fact. Through the mediatory intervention of this technology, it has become possible to watch a television rerun of an interview with a dead rock star—an example exaggerated to underscore my point about the loss of clear enunciatory positions, yet hardly unprecedented. The recorded sound-mage allows time and space to be overcome and the semblance of presence to be repeatedly evoked.
Notably, it was during the two decades following World War I that this technology became part of British everyday life on a massive scale. The incorporation of the BBC, the staggering sale of gramophones and radio sets, and the emergence of the sound film are crucial indices of this infiltration of recording and broadcast technologies. As Lewis's use of
the broadcasting metaphor in The Apes of God suggests, he interpreted this process above all in light of its political and ideological implications. Vice versa, the numerous passages in his work in which voice and the positions of enunciation fail to coincide should be considered in light of the politically charged emergence of media technologies.
Lewis was highly self-conscious about this relation, and notably, he himself broadcast on the BBC as early as January 1928, then three more times in the 1930s. Two examples should suffice to demonstrate the close relation between disjunctive structures of voice, media technology, and politics Lewis discerned. The first is from Lewis's satiric poem "The Song of the Militant Romance," written just after the appearance of The Ages of God and directed especially against the transition program of a "Revolution of the Word." In the fourth section of the poem, Lewis presents the transition deformation of syntax and the standard lexicon as a destruction of the visible world of objects in favor of a generalized "gramophonics." Mimicking a transition "revolutionary," he writes:
But let me have silence always, in the centre of the shouting—
That is essential! Let me have silence so that no pin may drop
And not be heard, and not a whisper escape us for all our spouting, Nor the needle's scratching upon this gramophone of a circular cosmic spot.
Hear me! Mark me! Learn me! Throw the mind's ear open—
Shut up the mind's eye—all will be music!
The gramophone and the radio emphasize the continuous, virtual "objects" of the auditory imagination, which Lewis presents here at the extremes of its range (silence and shouting), over the discrete objective presences that present themselves to the eye.
In his earlier work Time and Western Man , however, Lewis had taken up this technology in much more explicit and elaborate form. In a passage that begins by associating Proust's modernist memorial poetics with the attempts of the ancient Egyptians with their mummies and the country squire with his family portraits to preserve and reanimate the past, Lewis immediately segues into the possibility of preserving time-images technologically:
But how much more impressive would it not be if with the assistance of a gramophone and domestic cinematograph, or a vocal film, men were, in the future, able to call up at will any people they pleased with the same ease that now a dead-film star, Valentino, for instance, may be publicly resuscitated.
A quite credible domestic scene of the future is this. Mr. Citizen and his
wife are at the fireside; they release a spring and their selves of long ago fly onto a screen supplied in the Wells-like, or Low-like, Future to all suburban villas. It is a phono-film; it fills the room at once with the cheery laughter of any epoch required. "Let's have that picnic at Hampton Court in such and such a year!" Mrs. Citizen may have exclaimed. "Yes, do let's!" hubby has responded. And they live again the sandwiches, the teas in the thermos, the ginger beer and mosquitoes, of a dozen years before.
People with such facilities as that for promenades in the Past—their personal Pasts in this case—would have a very different view of their Present from us: it would be Miss Stein's "continuous Present" in fact. And all the Past would be similarly potted, it is to be assumed; celebrated heroes like Lord Kitchener would be as present to those happy people as were their own contemporary Great.
Art—whether in pictures, music, the screen, or in science or fiction—is already beginning to supply us with something of that sort.
Though Lewis is scarcely speaking the language of Jean Baudrillard, his message is recognizably akin to somber postmodernist predictions that focus on the ever-greater technological power to simulate experience. Lewis's rather comical projection of a happy suburbanism, however, is shockingly near the mark of the early consumer society of the 1950s and 1960s, if not necessarily of the Internet wasteland of the 1990.s.
Several other features of this passage bear comment, however. Foremost is the implicit political edge of Lewis's satirical "utopia." He juxtaposes a kind of middle-class Fabian socialism and progress with the highly inappropriate choice of Lord Kitchener as the "past Great" as present as ever. Lewis, as a veteran of some of the worst slaughters of World War I, knew whereof he wrote, when he conjured up the frightening revival of Kitchener's imposing countenance and commanding gesture, sending young men off to die in the trenches. Through the recording technology, Lewis intuited, history can be disembodied and then paradoxically revived at will, rather than being lived through once and allowed to pass definitively. If, however, even history has become a question of consumer choice, then it is also subject to the same techniques of persuasion and manipulation as other forms of advertisement. It offers no solid ground from which to take stock of the manifestations of the present, since even history is only part of the "continuous present." Lewis links the loss of temporal depth to the modernist antinarrative techniques most perfectly represented by the work of Stein and Joyce (and arguably, as Dasenbrock suggests, by Lewis's own early version of Enemy of the Stars ): it is these that are the appropriate forms of representing a depthless present. These political and aesthetic dimensions, moreover, are associated with
a very specific media technology, the earliest manifestation of the sound film, which Lewis calls here the "phono-film."
The precision of Lewis's reference is crucial, for it indicates the close attention Lewis paid to his context. In addition, it allows us to extrapolate more accurately what aspects of his context affected Lewis's thinking and constituted the "external" meanings of figures within his fictional writing. Lewis's term "phono-film" clearly refers to the Vitaphone sound recording process, wherein film images and gramophone tracks were synchronized to produce the sound film-images. The Vitaphone Corporation was formed in April 1926, and in August of that year the first film using the process was released. The real success of the process, however, came in the spring of the following year—the year of Time and Western Man's appearance—with the hit movie The Jazz Singer , starring Al Jolson as the Jewish boy turned black-faced jazz performer.
While this film captivated audience imaginations at the time with its story line and its technical innovation, we can today remark its strangeness, its awkward transitional moment between the directorial techniques and conventions of silent film and the new technological capacities of the sound film. As Patrick Ogle suggests, it has for most present-day viewers a "strange, almost hermaphroditic form incorporating both silent and sound techniques." Most notably, the film shifts, often with great abruptness, between silent "dramatic" parts, which allowed expressive silent film acting and movement, and recorded sound parts, mostly sung, which required static tableaulike scenes to permit recording on the discs. The Vitaphone process was only used until 1930, when recording to film replaced the cumbersome and limited gramophone process. It is not too fanciful to think that Lewis was captivated precisely by the estranging qualities of the Vitaphone process and mimicked them in the narrational structure of voice in The Apes of God : the lack of right correspondence between body and voice, the abrupt transitions, the highly contrived suspension of movement and plot for set-piece scenes where recorded songs or other performances can be inserted.
If it is indeed the case that The Jazz Singer was Lewis's paradigm case of the new technological mass culture artifact, then its specific content is also highly relevant to his satirical appropriation of it. The Jewish jazz singer in blackface clearly shaded his image of Gertrude Stein's "prose song" in Time and Western Man and by association, the "gramophonic" language experiments of her supporters at transition , against whom Lewis polemicized in The Diabolical Principle . In his chapter on Stein in Time and Western Man , Lewis refers specifically to "Miss Stein at the
Three Lives stage of her technical evolution" (TWM , 59)—the Jewish modernist Stein, in "blackface" for her literary mimicry of Melanctha. Indeed, the set-piece performances of Jolson, followed by the lapses into silence, have their exact counterpart in the short but wearying "jazzing" of Stein: "To an Antheil tempest of jazz it is the entire body that responds, after all. The executant tires; its duration does not exceed ten minutes or so, consecutively" (TWM , 59). In The Childermass , the feminized "Satters" becomes a stuttering parody of Stein:
"Y-y-y-y-y-y—you howwid blag-blag-blag-blag-blag-blag-blag-blag blag-blag—!"
A stein-stammer that can never reach the guard of blackguard hammers without stopping blag .
Notably, it is the word black on which the Stein-stammer sticks, relating, in Lewis's view, Stein's linguistic "miscegenation" (Melanctha as female Al Jolson, black-faced Jew) with her frivolous blaguer , her interminable blather.
This intersection of race (the crossing of Jewishness and blackness), sexuality (especially cross-dressing and transgendering moments), jazz music, and media technology, however, receives its fullest (and most intentionally offensive) development in The Apes of God . This is above all true of the "Lord Osmund's Lenten Party" chapter, which runs for two hundred fifty pages and has twenty-three subchapters. As I will discuss Apes in detail in the next section, I will cite only one exemplary episode here. In this scene, the cross-dressed and high-heeled naif Dan, the hypermasculine costumed fascist and "broadcaster" of messages Starr-Smith, and a black bartender are the players. Starr-Smith ("Black-shirt") is trying to steer Dan away from the bar, under the watchful eyes of the bartender, "the Tropical Man." Instead, they engage in an unintended and grotesque dance, before moving off:
The Blackshirt started back a couple of stage-paces of pure astonishment—taken unawares. Then he approached Dan again, his jaw set, and he forced him roughly off the stool at once. . . . As Dan was pushed he swayed gracefully. There was a moment during which they both swayed hither and thither in front of the Bar, beneath the eyes of the Tropical Man . Then arm-in-arm with Blackshirt (who grasped his intoxicated dummy firmly under the armpits, hoping for the best) Dan moved away, with the step of an automaton—stiff, but still goat-looted. (AOG , 573).
Allegorical masks of blackness ("Blackshirt," "Tropical Man") and femininity waltz to a machinelike rhythm, at once automatic as a gramophone
("the step of an automaton") and atavistic as a Dionysian frenzy ("still goat-looted").
Through the complicated interplay of his unruly authorial voice, his odd and multifarious narrative diction, and his shifting perceptual frames, Lewis creates the effect of sudden lurches and jolts in the "distances" of narration and rhetorical address. It is this derangement of the virtual spatiality of the text, the reader's inability to fix on a definite and consistent position from which the text is enunciated, that embeds Lewis's satirical intention in the micro- and macrological levels of his works, making a de-forming "riant spaciousness" their overall formal principle. There can be little doubt that Lewis saw this technique as integral to his critique of modernism not just as a literary tendency but also as the unwitting reflection of political, philosophical, and ideological developments to which he was opposed.
One can, in fact, already begin to trace the shift in Lewis's attitude in his responses to criticisms that friends made of his first novel, Tarr . Politely answering criticisms by Harriet Shaw Weaver, Tarr's publisher, about the book's lack of proportion and weakness in the characterization, Lewis concedes:
The criticism you made I made myself to a friend of mine about those first chapters. I make Tarr too much my mouthpiece in his analysis of Humour etc.:= Only what you say does not apply to the fourth chapter, of Part I, in which there are, I think, no opinions, only an analysis of character and action. And you will find, in the rest of the book, that the story and the business of the story is stuck to almost entirely.=In the rest of the book the "opinions" of the principal English character do not exceed the proportion that only may be allowed, but, to be real, is necessary in describing a person like Frederick Tarr.
You must really consider the first three chapters as a sort of preface. But I will admit that Tarr has just a trifle too many of my ideas to be wholly himself, as I conceived him. (LWL , 76)
Lewis's response reflects the modernist editorial and critical standards of the day, even as he tries to defend his creation in places. Tarr and his "opinions" become a sort of paratext, a "preface" to the real story. Moreover, the fourth chapter is presented as superior because of its immanence, its purging of "opinion"—that is, theory, polemic, ideol-
ogy—and its essential (analytic) handling of character and action. At this point, prior to articulating his political critique of modernism, Lewis still believes that it is possible for a literary character to be "wholly himself," to "live" on the page, unaffected by the clamor of ideologies, even the author's own.
Raising a criticism similar to Weaver's, T. Sturge Moore wrote Lewis in September 1918 to say that he would have liked to have seen a cleaner separation between the author and the personae of the novel; unlike Kreisler, the German protagonist, the eponymic Tarr seemed to Moore little more than a mouthpiece of the author (LWL , 99). Moore goes on to focus on the most discursive sections of the book, the paratextual frame where Tarr and his opinions dominate: "! rather regret the preface and epilogue; they will distract reflection from the book itself to the doctrine it will be supposed to illustrate, which is far from being so sound or certain a thing" (99). For Moore, too, the Tarr sections seem extraneous: not part of the "book itself," its autonomous literary cosmos, but of the heteronomic world of ideologies and ideas. This time, Lewis is less yielding, choosing instead to brush off the whole matter: "All I can suppose is that I am really Tarr's hero" (100). Notably, however, far from moving to remedy this "defect" in his later novels, Lewis would accentuate this infection of character and author, and of action and ideology. The "prologue and epilogue" would swell to the boundary of the book and beyond, as Lewis incorporated whole passages from his copious critical writings and wrote criticism using dialogic and fictional forms, while the "book itself," the world of rounded characters with a life of their own, would largely disappear from view. As I have suggested, this development, already anticipated in the formal awkwardness and "flawed" narration of Tarr , at once reveals Lewis's departure from modernist conceptions of significant form and anticipates the rhetorical tools Lewis would use in his satirical and polemical sallies.
Perhaps the most extreme example of Lewis's destruction of formed character and significant form is his "theological science-fiction"The Childermass . In this book, no action or character is "real" or "autonomous," since both character and action emerge out of the demonic manipulation, in ideological and political debate, of the imperfectly manifest souls of the war dead. In the course of the book, Lewis offers a potpourri of parodies of modernist writers (especially Joyce and Stein) and satirizes a variety of typically modernist themes within the general frame of a utopian/dystopian fiction: a limbolike camp of the dead souls of fallen soldiers, waiting to be drawn into the "Magnetic City." Lewis's
"theoretical grammar," his "formalist syntax," and his polemical relation to context collide so violently in this work as to render parts of it nearly incomprehensible. He devotes some of his most difficult writing to satirically depicting a no-man's-land of relativistic time-space outside the city, a unique topography that serves several formal, rhetorical, and thematic purposes at once: to attack the contemporary obsession with time, to parody the recently popularized image of Einstein's "relafivity," to illustrate the penetration of spectacle into reality, and to satirically derange modernism's mediation of events through the perceptions of characters. Yet in so radically disjoining his own ideology, the discursive senses of the text, and its rhetorical address to specific contexts, Lewis cast his authorial voice into a limbolike, dimensionless space notably different from his modernist rivals. Whereas Woolf's choral voicings and Joyce's stylistic ventriloquisms had allowed a notable broadening of the field of "vocal" effects in the novel, precisely as authorial voice was dispersed among a variety of narrating minds or stylistic models, Lewis's techniques repeatedly result in a mocking mimicry that, for all the diversity, of his models, evacuates each of nuance and substance, rendering them one-dimensional and inane.
The Childermass's two main characters, the reconstituted shades of the old school chums and trench soldiers Pullman and Satters, wander outside the gates of the "Magnetic City," which exerts strange effects on the space around it. At first, Satters has difficulty adjusting to this technological-metaphysical space and takes comic pratfalls: "After a few steps he rears up before Pullman's shadow as it bars his path then trips and sits down abruptly. Pullman kneels beside the stricken Satters who sits stating and pointing while he blabs on blindly saluting all the lovely sights. He recognizes Pullman and crows at him as he notices any unusual movement on that object's part but he resists attempts to raise his person from the sitting position." Later, following Pullman's lead, he adapts himself to it, but becomes thereby a kind of grotesque machine: "He is obedient; a correct vitality is distributed throughout the machine; he gets back the dead accuracy required for walking flexibly from the hips and as though born a biped" (Ch , 20). Yet this equilibrium is tenuous, since the space can alter unpredictably: "The scene is steadily redistributed, vamped from position to position intermittently at its boundaries. It revolves upon itself in a slow material maelstrom. Satters sickly clings to his strapping little champion" (Ch , 42).
Lewis similarly creates abrupt discontinuities in the book's rhetorical and narrational positions. Even in the first section, before the incorpo-
ration of long stretches of dialogized philosophical argument and other non-narrative discourse, he employs several different speech-genres in rapid, unmediated succession. These include
Pseudo-neutral language for describing landscape: "The city lies in a plain, ornamented with mountains. . . . Beyond the oasis-plain is the desert. The sand-devils perform up to its northern and southern borders" (Ch , 9).
Parody of Leopold Bloom's jerky internal monologues in Ulysses , filtered through an odd sort of indirect discourse: "Speculations as to the habitat and sport-status of the celestial water-fowl.—Food (fish-fry, frogs?). Speculations as to fish-life in these waters, lifeless they seem: more speculations involving chemistry of waters" (Ch , 10).
Parody of Gertrude Stein: "Pulley has been most terribly helpful and kind there's no use excusing himself Pulley has been most terribly helpful and kind—most terribly helpful and he's been kind. He's been most terribly kind and helpful, there are two things, he's been most kind he's been terribly helpful, he's kind he can't help being—he's terribly" (Ch , 44).
Inane dialogue and its immediate echo in indirect discourse:
"Where did you spring from?"
"I thought I'd take a turn. I couldn't sleep."
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm damned if I know?"
They laugh. Damned if he knows if he's damned, and damned if he cares! So this is Heaven?
Here we are and that's that!
And let the devil take the hindmost! (Ch , 11)
Grotesque tableau: "reptilian heads of painted wood, filled-out tinfoil or alloy, that strike round beneath the gusts of wind, and pigs made of inflated skins, in flight, bumped and tossed by serpents, among the pennants and embossed banners" (Ch , 15).
Satiric comparison: "Fresh as a daisy, he reasserts their ordinary solid life-spell in common acts and great homeliness, of housewife-order" (Ch , 26).
It would be possible to extend this catalog much further, especially if one went beyond the relatively unified opening section into the disorderly pastiche that characterizes the latter two hundred pages of the
book. What is significant, however, is Lewis's implicit paralleling of the discontinuous hallucinatory spaces through which he hurries his characters and his text's discursive and rhetorical leaps from register to register. In representing a dissipating world in a veritable explosion of styles, Lewis tears to pieces the modernist text's organic unity of form and content and presents his own book as a tottering machine assembled out of the wreckage of modernist literature.
In The Apes of God , Lewis's episodic demolition of the upper-class bohemia of the Sitwell and Bloomsbury circles, he achieves a similar effect by making it difficult to attribute utterances to distinct speakers. He presents, for example, pseudodialogues in which each statement merely extends the inanity of the previous one, and each speaker becomes no more than an anonymous, perfectly interchangeable instrument of grammar's empty rehearsal of its forms:
"Do you know———!"
"! had exactly the same impression Sib!"
"It was identical!"
"! do think that was a coincidence!"
"Wasn't it! I thought my ear must be deceiving me! It
would not be the first time!"
"Don't talk to me about one's ears! But I believe we must—"
"I don't believe our ears have played us false!"
"In this matter—I believe they haven't!"
"I am not positive—but I should be surprised if they had deceived us!"
"For once I do believe that mine has proved trustworthy!"
"Not more so than With mine!" (AOG , 362)
These lines, spoken by the Finnian Shaw family, reveal them to be a chattering collective machine. Lewis comically presents a discourse functioning in the absence of any reference (it is elided in the initial question) while dramatizing the way that the fiction of a referent can allow this hollow mechanism to grind on, simulating life.
This faux speech is not, however, confined to the ostensible objects of satire, the "apes" among whom Horace Zagreus sends the young naif Dan to familiarize him with their ways. It equally characterizes the speech of the figure in the book representing the satirist's perspective, the anatomist of the apes, Zagreus himself. Zagreus incessantly stages prerehearsed discourses—"broadcasts," as they are often called—learned from his master, Pierpoint, whose words dominate the book but
who never himself appears. Thus after an exchange about satire, Horace breaks off:
"What did you think of it?" Horace asked suddenly, in almost a timid voice.
Horace saw that his duettist was cross.
"The scene Julius—what we have just done together Julius."
"I thought it was good! Was it all Pierpoint this time
"Very striking!" (AOG , 453)
Even Zagreus's laugh is borrowed from Pierpoint: "A loud peal of super-pierpointian laughter stormed the ears of the assembly. The swaying figure of Zagreus become the focus for all eyes whatever" (AOG , 506). This laughter is wholly feigned, as Pierpoint's secretary, Starr-Smith, explains to Dan: " 'Zagreus has no sense of humour at all—although he laughs so much!' " (AOG , 508).
By continually underscoring that Zagreus's utterances are not his own, but only a recitation and a repetition of something already said by Pierpoint, Lewis foregrounds the radical loss of autonomy in his character's eclipse behind a preconstituted discourse. In this respect, Lewis gives a political explanation for that voiding of the subject which Beck-ett would later take up in Watt as a free-floating, contextless condition: "Watt spoke as one speaking to dictation, or reciting, parrot-like, a text, by long repetition become familiar."
Starr-Smith, who attends the Finnian Shaw party dressed as a Black-shirt and who is referred to as "Blackshirt" or "the Fascist," also represents Pierpoint's perspective, defending him against Zagreus's too-free use of his words and doctrine. Some readers might assume that Lewis represents fascism as an alternative to the farcical decay of the ruling class that finds its exemplary image in the Finnian Shaws. Yet two objections make problematic the view of Starr-Smith as the fascist "fix" to an otherwise all-encompassing spectacle of decay. In the first place, Starr-Smith is as much compromised by the "broadcasting" of Pierpoint's words as Zagreus; he moreover engages in gratuitous acts of violence and closes ranks with Zagreus again at the end, sure signs of Lewis's unwillingness to stake his claims on this character. As Geoffrey Wagner writes of Starr-Smith and of the related fascist figure in The Childermass , Hyperides: "In his satire, Lewis often shows himself ready to poke fun at stupid traits by no means ridiculed in his criticism; it is true that the Fascist Starr-Smith of The Apes is almost the only man of good will in
the work, but Starr-Smith is frequently found 'broadcasting' in an obvious skit of Fascist oratory, while in The Childermass the Followers of Hyperides give what may be intended as a parody of similar rhetoric." Still more important, Starr-Smith is not a fascist, but is only dressed as a fascist for the Finnian Shaw costume party. He apes a different master, but apes all the same. The slippage from the costumed Blackshirt to "the Fascist Starr-Smith" in Geoffrey Wagner's argument above is symptomatic, for Lewis goes out of his way to tempt the reader to identify "the Fascist Starr-Smith" as fascist and therefore as the locus in the text of Lewis's own fascistic leanings. Yet Lewis carefully bars this identification as well. Starr-Smith, he underscores, has only donned fascist drag, just as the Blackshirt only mouths the absent Pierpoint's ideas:
Why do you suppose I am here with two more, who are volunteers, as 'fascists' of all things, to-night? Nothing to do with Fascismo —the last thing—can you guess? It's because I picked up three khaki shirts for a few pence and dyed them black—the whole outfit for the three of us did not cost fifteen bob! That is the reason." (AOG , 509)
This disavowal, however, does not put an end to the vertiginous problems of the "fascist's" identity. Starr-Smith is only dressed as a fascist; yet on what authority does he thereby claim that he is no fascist? What is the difference between "playing a fascist" and "being a fascist," especially since fascism is a doctrine of action and "propaganda of the deed"? Lewis sets this costumed play at being a fascist at a party in apposition with the costumed spectacle of a black- or brown-shirted political party of fascists. Fascism for Lewis here, like femininity for loan Riviere, appears as a masquerade—a costume, a set of signs to be deployed, an aesthetic construct extending theatricality into the political sphere. The apparent antipode of the decadence of the upper classes, fascism's revolutionary gestures are no less a misappropriation of the artist's mimetic privilege than is the fashionable "aping" of the upper-class bohemia. The aristocratic class origins of Starr-Smith's model, Oswald Mosley, would have reinforced Lewis's depiction of fascist spectacle as the extension of aping by other means.
No character's point of view provides the reader with a perspective from which to judge the other characters and their actions. Each of the various perspectives taken up—the naif Dan, the practical joker Zagreus, the cynical "split-man" Ratner, the homosexual gold digger Margolin, the faux fascist Starr-Smith—offer positions from which other characters appear in a satiric light. The idiotic innocence of Dan and the puff-
tanical rigidity of Starr-Smith play off against the cynical amorality, the giddy childishness, and the mannered hedonism of others. Yet every position that is provisionally adopted only exposes the stupidity and degradation of every other one.
Lewis does, however, hold out the possibility of an Archimedean point outside the represented action, one akin to the author's own relation to his created characters: the mysterious Pierpoint. Lewis coyly puns on Pierpoint's name: he is, Lewis hints, the "peer point," the anthropomorphic point of view from which the spectacle as a whole might be surveyed. His would be a god's-eye view that could measure how far this creation has fallen. Pierpoint's orchestration of the various characters' broadcasts and skits, his metafictional puppoteering, reflects the satiric machinations of Lewis as author of The Apes of God . With the absconded deity Pierpoint, the reader is led to hope for a margin of authenticity nowhere else available.
Lewis's rhetorical intention, however, is far more complex than that of persuading readers to accept Pierpoint's philosophy, a doctrine markedly similar to that advanced by Lewis in his polemical works of the late twenties, The Art of Being Ruled, Time and Western Man, The Dithyrambic Spectator, The Diabolical Principle , and Paleface . In fact, even Lewis's critical prose does not so much aim to persuade as to foreground the act and technical apparatus of persuasion, to reveal the forms of power, the "art" by which one is ruled. As Dasenbrock suggests (discussing The Art of Being Ruled ):
What Lewis wants to do . . . is to create a theater in which his readers come to be suspicious of all ideologies and to question all fixed points of view. He wants us not to think the puppets are real and we are fighting over something important but to ask who is the puppet master and how is he trying to dupe us through the show. Lewis is, of course, the puppet master of his world, so he would be being inconsistent and untrue to what he hopes to accomplish if he were to deliver a fixed position and set ideology in the world of the text.
Lewis's late modernism differs from the classical satire of the eighteenth century, Daniel Schenker suggests, insofar as Lewis lacks definite stylistic and doctrinal means for persuasion. In fact, one could legitimately argue that Lewis was altogether suspicious of persuasion, of any use of the word in and as action. But this posture of total suspicion is, of course, an aporetic one, given that he aggressively aims to persuade readers of this view in work after work.
Lewis's rhetorical attack on rhetoric accounts for the contradiction that Julian Symons identifies in Lewis's novels of the thirties (though I would disagree with Symons that the contradiction is mainly confined to these novels): "All of them are essentially critiques of meaningless mindless 'action.' . . . We are confronted, however by the inescapable fact that the novels are the work of a man fascinated by the violence they condemn. . . . It could even be said that Lewis's style, ejaculatory, assertive, loaded with images and jokes, is an embodiment of action, and certainly it is active rather than passive like the styles of most novelists." Actually, both Lewis's fiction and his critical works (which in the late twenties emerged from the same original matrix of prose, The Man of the World ) share this contradictory or aporetic antirhetorical rhetoric, this evasive ideology of ideological suspicion. It leads Lewis into the intellectual contortions and inconsistencies in his critical works and the narrative discontinuities and reversals in his fiction. Lewis's texts, insofar as they represent a world in which spectacle and reality have become indistinguishable, are caught in this same bind, dramatizing their own status as diversionary spectacle from another scene, as decoys and props of an absent power, as persuasions made fatal by persuasiveness. Paradoxically, they say to the reader, buffeted and dazed by Lewis's bellicose prose, "Do not have read this book."
These reflections should help to reveal the aporetic aspects of Pier-point, the internal (but absented) puppet-master figure of The Apes of God . Zagreus, Starr-Smith, and others in the book are compromised not by their divergence from Pierpoint's critical views but by their apish imitation of them, their inability to express any true individuality of speech and thought. The reader's acceptance of Pierpoint's statements as maxims to be adopted and reused would, it follows, put him or her in the very same position as the apes. Lewis establishes these rhetorical antinomies as a spur to independence from persuasion, not excluding from this universal suspicion his own pet themes. If the reader fails to attend to Pierpoint's doctrine, satirically enacted in the book, s/he becomes (or is already) an ape. Yet ifs/he takes Pierpoint's doctrine as anything more than a thorn for hidebound thought, then s/he is all the more ape for thinking that autonomy may be had from another's critical discourse.
In Time and Western Man , Lewis formulated this problem in an enigmatic theological reflection: "Only with a transcendent God is it possible to secure a true individualism" (TWM, 434)- The guilt of the char-
acters in The Apes of God is that they fail to detach themselves from their creator, of whom they are the mere apes and puppets. Correlatively, however, the godlike Pierpoint is diminished through his "metafictional" presence in his created world. He appears constantly, but through his apish, puppetlike representatives: through Zagreus, his propagandist; through Starr-Smith, his strong-arm man; through Ratner, his publisher. He is in this sense secondary to them, even as they imitate his model. They "interpret" him, both as a musician interprets a score and as an explicator interprets a text. In turn, the interpretations begin to eclipse the original altogether. If the modernist author organized his/her works through an ironic distance from the characters, while revealing the traces of a rich awareness in the symbolic unity of style and invented form, then Pierpoint is the modernist author no longer able to perform the difficult balancing act modernist writing demands. His avatars have taken on a largely spurious but destructive freedom from his authority, forcing him to show his controlling hand too openly to maintain a consistent posture of ironic distance.
Pierpoint's figure shuttles back and forth between political and aesthetic critique. Politically, he represents the ruling hand increasingly forced to show itself behind the culturalized politics of liberal democracy. Through Pierpoint, Lewis dramatizes the mobilization of bodies by disembodied voices and ideas ("broadcasts") and the concomitant loss of authentic individuality in contemporary society. His interventions, including the dispatch of his "fascist" agent Starr-Smith to the Finnian Shaw party, reflect the more open exercise of power that will follow on the disintegration of liberalism. In political-critical works like The Lion and the Fox and The Art of Being Ruled , Lewis suggests that for the "ruled," himself among them, the open exercise of power in fascist and communist countries might be preferable to liberal democracy's production of consensus through culture. Yet while in no way himself an advocate of feminism, homosexuality, youth cult, and other cultural-ized forms of revolt against traditional authority, Lewis was not being disingenuous when he expressed his provisional approval of them. For these tendencies, as such representative of all Lewis hated in liberalism, were also in his view the forces leading it most forcefully into crisis and hopefully to its death. The key issue for Lewis at this time was not to oppose the inexorably advancing destruction of democratic consensus but to negotiate the blighted period of transition and to survive. Pier-point represents not so much a solution to the crisis of liberalism, a new
authority principle emerging behind the spectacle of its decay, as the ambiguity of the crisis itself, holding the potential for either catastrophe or renewal.
Aesthetically, Pierpoint's figure satirizes a particular social situation of the modernist writer in the late twenties: the reappropriation of radically innovative art within an economy of discourse (journalistic, commercial, critical, academic, connoisseurial) that had taken on a life of its own. The encroachments of the broader economy on art's relatively circumscribed domain and art's compromises with extra-artistic trends remained a consistent theme in Lewis's work after 1926: in his analytical opposition of creative and interpretive activity in Time and Western Man ; in his satirical depiction in Snooty Baronet of publicity in the publishing industry; his unflattering presentation of Rend Harding's vulgarizer "Rotter" in Self-Condemned ; even in his rueful autobiographical reflections in Rude Assignments about the dissipation of his talents on polemics to the detriment of his fiction. By compromising even the detached author figure and semblable Pierpoint, Lewis creates a fictional cosmos reflecting his dismay with the real one. He offers his readers only an unstable space of words in which every place from which to speak is already, from the beginning, dislocated; and in which modernism's unique authorial voice endures, but degraded to the tinny broadcasts of a stereotyped discourse.