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Title: Wyndham Lewis and the twilight of the arts : publics, markets, politics
Author: Hammond, Simon Frederick
ISNI:       0000 0004 7964 9733
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis examines Wyndham Lewis's fraught relationship with the cultural marketplace, in order to reveal the ways in which this shaped his career, the form and theme of his work, and the contours and extremities of his thought. His career as a modernist writer and painter is understood in the context of a public sphere being dramatically re-drawn, where the distinctions between elite and popular cultures, and between art and commodity, were in flux. Charting Lewis's navigation of this changing landscape, I pay particular attention to the series of works that he produced as reluctant compromises with public taste, allowing me to trace the development of his sense of a cultural crisis, and to detail the way that this becomes inflected by wider social and political questions. My argument proceeds in three movements. The first describes Lewis's literary beginnings as part of an intelligentsia beset by a sense of dissociation between artistic and commercial value. His practical endeavours are described alongside the literary works that he produced, which are conceived as implicated in this conjuncture at the level of narrative and style, as well as heralding modernism's strategic retreat from the public sphere. The second investigates Lewis's art career following the First World War, his uneasy rapprochement with public taste as well as his experiences of patronage, and, from this, delineates how a loss of faith in the public informed his turn towards an anti-democratic, authoritarian politics. The politicisation of Lewis's experience of the cultural marketplace is identified as cohering around a diagnosis of a breakdown in the ancien régime of the arts. Finally, I survey the direction that Lewis's 'politics of the intellect' takes him, analysing the way that his work becomes afflicted by what I define as a crisis of audience, and scrutinizing his search for radical solutions far from literary and artistic London.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available