Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, and Radical Modernism / Edition 1

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Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis developed a highly experimental art; they were attracted simultaneously to political programs remarkably backward in outlook—the autocracies of Fascist Italy and Germany. That paradox, central to the problematic achievement of Anglo-American modernism, is freshly addressed in this study. Here Sherry examines the influence of music and painting on literature, presents original research on European intellectual history, and proposes a new understanding of ideology as a force in the literary imagination. Following the example of continental ideologues, the English modernists use the material of aesthetic experience to prove truths of human nature, making art the basis for social values and recommendations. This sensibility enriches their work, shaping the varied textures of Pound's Cantos and the complex designs of Lewis's painting and fiction, but their mastery of avant-garde techniques endorses the authority of an antique state. Sherry returns their "totalitarian synthesis" of art and politics to its originating moment, following its trajectory from 1910 to the eve of World War II.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Vincent Sherry has the gift of never writing an uninteresting page in Pound, Lewis, and Radical Modernism. It is impossible in a brief note to capture the richness of this lucidly, gracefully written book, which, among other things, is surely the most thorough and original study of the influence of Wyndham Lewis on Pound."—American Literary Scholarship

"Admirably clear and direct....Distinguished not only by a sophisticated understanding of a neglected strain of modernist theory but also by careful scholarship that draws on important unpublished material. But the book's chief distinction is its challenging, and sometimes radically new, readings of Lewis's fiction and Pound's poetry."—Journal of English and Germanic Philology

"Vincent Sherry's book raises one of the most important questions about modernism: what is the relationship of avant-garde technology to retrograde politics in the work of Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis? Sherry's answer involves a meticulous examination of a hitherto ignored aspect of modernist ideology: its derivation from the anti-humanism of such continental philosophers as Julien Benda, Ortega y Gasset, and Remy de Gourmont. How this pessimistic anti-humanism, with its advocacy of the Visual over the Vocal, the image over the verbal-musical model of an earlier modernism, informed Pound and Lewis's writings in the 1920s, is Sherry's story and he tells it beautifully."—Marjorie Perloff, Stanford University

"Vincent Sherry's thoughtful and lucid study engages many of the central problems of high modernism. His work is marked by an unusual breadth of concern and a welcome freedom from dogmatic certainties."—Michael André Bernstein, University of California, Berkeley

"Vincent Sherry has given us a probing inquiry into the relations between aesthetic practice and authoritarian politics in the work of Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound. Without oversimplifying the issues or the artists' careers, he shows how their desire to privilege the visual over the auditory led to fascist conclusions that had been anticipated in Continental ideology; and he traces the complex struggles in their work that followed from their belated recognitions of the inadequacy of that correlation of the aesthetic and the social. This is a book that will have to be taken into account by future discussions of modernist poetics."—Thomas R. Whitaker, Yale University

"Sherry's sustained attention to ideologie marks an important innovation in contemporary literary study....This book should have important implications for the future conduct of modernist studies."—Paideuma

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195076936
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/28/1992
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.31 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Villanova University
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Table of Contents

Prologue 3
1 From the Continent to England, 1889-1925 9
Musical Empathy 11
Political Aesthetics 16
European Vortex 24
This Hulme Business 34
2 Ezra Pound, 1908-1920 43
Negotiations 49
Early Cantos: Auditing the Tradition 66
Hugh Selwyn Mauberley 82
3 Wyndham Lewis: L'Entre Deux Guerres 91
Untuning the Word 99
The Failure of Art 113
The Art of Failure 127
4 Ezra Pound, 1921-1939 141
Resuming the Cantos: Eliot, Dada, Major Form 143
Making Friends with the Enemy 163
Stages of Excess 173
Epilogue 187
Notes 197
Index 223
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