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Title: Wyndham Lewis : a study of the cultural, social and political ideas of Wyndham Lewis, with reference to their influence upon his literary theory and practice, 1908-1937
Author: Davies, H. A.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1981
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If we are to understand Lewis' work, we need to study the political and intellectual context of the pre-1914 period, when his ideas were first formulated. This context was marked by the conflict between Liberal Imperialists and Social Imperialists. The former, stressing the moral role of Empire, favoured a Franco-British alliance to preserve England's world position; the latter, stressing racial will, favoured an Anglo-German one. Lewis supported Social Imperialism and his anti-liberalism in art and politics initially followed from this. However, Lewis' perspective was European. His work in the 1914 period absorbed one trend of Social Imperialism which argued the case for an Aryan Europe of imperial states on the model of the Holy Roman Empire. The French classicist and-Aryanist, Ernst Seillière and the German Aryanist, Ludwig Klages are shown to have proposed theories of international order, of the mind, and of culture which Lewis' work adopted. Radical-conservatives, the Aryanists saw the new century to involve a Manichean struggle between the Aryan soul and the Jewish spirit. Klages' psychology, Seillière's Social Imperialism, and a European tradition of Aryan anti-semitism determined Lewis' pre-war work: the short stories, 'Mrs Dukes' Million', 'Vorticism', 'Blast' and 'Tarr'. Convinced by the war of a Jewish-Bolshevist conspiracy to destroy the Aryan West, Lewis' post-1918 work became concerned to reveal and counteract this conspiracy. His literary and political writing of the twenties 'The Art of Being Ruled', 'Time and Western Man', 'The Childermass', 'The Apes of God' assimilated the themes and myths of German conspiracy theory and anti-semitiam. In the thirties, Lewis set his literature, 'Snooty Baronet', 'The Revenge for Love', in Persia and in Spain to reveal the Jewish-Bolshevist assault upon the Christian West. Believing that the literature of liberal internationalism was written by Jewish-Bolshevist agents to destroy the Aryan mind and will, his post-1918 literature involved structural and thematic parodies of the major works of Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust, André Gide, André Malraux and Ernest Hemingway. Lewis' work as writer, critic, philosopher and political theorist was determined by the theory of a Jewish-Bolshevist conspiracy and by the hope of Aryan revival. Lewis was not strictly a fascist writer or thinker. Opposed to the revolutionary populism of Mussolini and of Mosley (and later of Hitler), Lewis' work, 'Hitler', 'Left Wings over Europe', 'Count Your Dead', 'They are Alive!', adhered to the even more extreme ideas, myths and perspectives of anti-populist ideologists of German Aryanism.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available