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.