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Title: Cult and magic : two readings of the fiction and theory of Wyndham Lewis
Author: Nath, Michael
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1991
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The aim of this thesis is to break with the habit of much criticism of Wyndham Lewis, which has been to rely on the various classes of Lewis' non-fictional discourse in the interpretation of his fiction and satire. To this end, Chapter 1 undertakes a short survey of the bulk of major Lewis criticism, and indicates the several limitations attendant thereupon, in the form of too restricted models of interpretation. This chapter ends with a brief account of the method that I myself will adopt. In essence, this will be to go 'outside' the confinement of Lewisian discourse, as it were, in order to bring external bodies of knowledge to the examination of his work. In Chapter 2 (which occupies nine sections) I attempt to show how the anti-Christian heresies embraced by the term 'Gnosticism', and the conceptual structure of Persian dualism, informed Lewis' work both theoretically and imaginatively, and adduce evidence of his interest in these systems. Lewis' attitude to nature, his conception of good and evil, his aestheticized theology and the theory of satire (or satiric philosophy) expressed in Men Without Art can, in my view, be called Gnostic. That term might also be applied to the attitude of certain of his protagonists, to the allusive and imaginative syncretism of parts of The Apes of God, to an eschatological structure discernible in that novel, to a creation myth expounded in Malign Fiesta, and to other elements of that novel (though in a less positive sense than in Lewis' previous work). In Chapter 3 (in six sections) I introduce a new way of looking at Lewis' satire. In his capacity as a satirist, I relate Lewis to the earliest manifestations of that genre (in Ancient Greece), when it was believed that the satirist had the potency to kill through the word. Such a belief has persisted to the present, undergoing a transformation from a literal to a symbolic significance. Its presence, and the urges and intentions associated with it, I trace in Lewis' theory, polemics, verse and satiric fiction. In addition, I examine his affiliation with the figures of the railer and the Cynic, who, on account of the virulence of their utterance, have in some ways been associated with the proto-satirists. In a discussion of The Apes of God, I present Lewis as a 'revenge-satirist', motivated by an impulse to satirize to death the objects of his hate. Finally, I return to Malign Fiesta as the point at which, a Christian theology beginning to emerge in Lewis, attended by guilt over the character of his career as a satirist, a twin departure is signalled in his work, from the traditions expounded in Chapters 2 and 3.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available