The machinery of self identity, modernity and repetition in the critical theory of Wyndham Lewis
Of the major literary modernists writing in English in the early years of the twentieth century, arguably the most misunderstood and critically neglected has been Wyndham Lewis. It is the contention of this dissertation that Lewis should be reassessed, not only as a vitally important writer and artist, but also as one the most significant critical theorists of modernity. Accordingly, the central aim of this dissertation is to demonstrate that Lewis, whose oeuvre extended from fiction, drama, poetry and literary criticism to radical experimentation in painting and drawing, to a considerable range of non- fictional, political and philosophical writings which would now be classified as critical and cultural theory, was not only a highly significant theorist of his own period, but also, pre-emptive of many of the concerns that have come to be identified with postmodernism and its aftermath. The essence of this untimeliness, it is argued, lies firstly with his consistent engagement with the nihilism hat he believed to be the engine of modernity, and secondly, with his creative deployment of the ideas of a range of continental philosophers from Kant and Schopenhauer to Nietzsche and Bergson to counter that nihilism and in Nietzsche's terminology to "overcome" it. In the process, and particularly in his exploration of temporality and spatiality as they configure human identity, Lewis provided a philosophical commentary on the modern that in many ways paralleled and prefigured the intellectual trajectory of major twentieth century thinkers such as Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and subsequently, Gilles Deleuze and Jean Baudrillard. The genealogy of these parallels and pre-figurations will be traced through the use of the concept of repetition as it is deployed by Lewis in his critical theory and fiction, from his early short stories to his final theological fantasies.