Fables of Aggression: Wyndham Lewis, the Modernist as Fascist

Jameson’s controversial reading of one of the great twentieth-century writers.

The novels of Wyndham Lewis have generally been associated with the work of the great modernists—Joyce, Pound, Eliot, Yeats—who were his sometime friends and collaborators. Lewis’s originality, however, can only be fully grasped when it is understood that, unlike those writers, he was essentially a political novelist.

In this now classic study, Fredric Jameson proposes a framework in which Lewis's explosive language practice—utterly unlike any other English or American modernism—can be grasped as a political and symbolic act. He does not, however, ask us to admire the energy of Lewis's style without confronting the inescapable and often scandalous ideological content of Lewis's works: the aggressivity and sexism, the predilection for racial and national categories, the brief flirtation with fascism, and the inveterate and cranky oppositionalism that informs his powerful polemics against virtually all the political and countercultural tendencies of his time.

Fables of Aggression draws on the methods of narrative analysis and semiotics, psychoanalysis, and ideological analysis to construct a dynamic model of the contradictions from which Lewis's incomparable narrative corpus is generated, and of which it offers so many varying symbolic resolutions.


  • “Jameson's little book on Wyndham Lewis is an important and in many ways brilliant work, as much for its treatment of Lewis himself as for its two other important contributions: to an understanding of the ideology of modernism, and to an understanding of a socio-political-psychoanlaytic theory of criticism ... Jameson is sensitive both to detail and to the larger intellectual and political issues raised by a writer like Lewis. ... He provides a serious, challenging, and extremely intelligent alternative to the reigning ahistorical formalist criticism.”
  • “A highly original study on the novels of Wyndham Lewis. ... The book is supremely important as a contribution to Marxist criticism especially. It is ironic that it took a critic whose ideological position was so opposed to his subject to offer the best assessment of the ideological and literary bases of Lewis's creativity. ... This is an outstanding contribution to our understanding of postmodernism.”


  • "Staggering in breadth and depth" - Alexa Firat reviews Alexandre Beecroft's 'An Ecology of World Literature'

    Writing in the Journal of the Society for Contemporary Thought and the Islamicate World, Assistant Professor of Arabic at Temple University Alexa Firat reviews Alexander Beecroft's 'An Ecology of World Literature: from Antiquity to the Present Day.' Firat praises the books scale and erudition, writing that 'the journey through the six ecologies Beecroft lays out is altogether fascinating and staggering in breadth and depth.'

    Alexander Beecroft’s most recent study, An Ecology of World Literature, is a profound undertaking that uses the scientific framework of ecology to “facilitate the comparative study of the interactions between literatures and their environments” (28), and hopefully to provoke discussions about particular cultural contexts with specific ecologies. Beecroft’s intellectual interests grew out of his desire to say something useful about literatures (in his case ancient Greece and early China) in conjunction with each other that did not depend on claims of contact, leading to his acclaimed study Authorship and Cultural Identity in Early Greece and China [1].  Furthermore, the critical discourses on world literature, as productive as they are, left Beecroft searching for a theoretical model that could make sense of, for instance, the relationship between political fragmentation and cultural unity found in early Greece and China, and that furthermore did not use as a premise the value we, as modern readers, add to the texts we read (2) [2]. In addition to these questions, Beecroft was introduced to the work of the Sanskritist Sheldon Pollock. The confluence of these elements led him to consider that the models for understanding how literature circulates were actually a series of different concrete answers, emerging in specific contexts, to the same set of problems about the interactions between literatures and their environments (3). Drawing from the work of literary and linguistic scholars and modeled on the science of ecology, Beecroft developed a scheme of six ecologies for his interaction: the epichoric (or local), panchoric (a generic term he derived from Panhellenic), cosmopolitan, vernacular, national and global, that offer a conducive framework for comparative studies not bound by time, geography or language.

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  • Fredric Jameson: 50% off until Friday

    High modernism is now as far from us as antiquity was for the Renaissance. Such is the premise of Fredric Jameson’s major new work - The Ancients and the Postmoderns: On the Historicity of Forms - in which modernist works, this time in painting (Rubens) and music (Wagner and Mahler), are pitted against late-modernist ones (in film) as well as a variety of postmodern experiments (from SF to The Wire), all of which attempt, in their different ways, to invent new forms to grasp a specific social totality. Throughout the historical periods, argues Jameson, the question of narrative persists through its multiple formal changes and metamorphoses.

    To celebrate the publication of this book, you can buy it at a 50% discount - along with ALL of Jameson's backlist - until Friday 14th August (17.00 EST). 

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  • Competition now closed: win Fredric Jameson books to mark new Vorticists exhibition

    To mark the new exhibition, Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World, which opens at the Tate Britain today, Verso are giving away Fredric Jameson's classic book, Fables of Agression: Wyndham Lewis, the Modernist as Fascist, along with two of his other books. 

    While Fables of Agression primarily focuses on Wyndham Lewis' novels, Lewis was also the founder of the short-lived avant-garde Vorticist art and poetry movement. Among its other key members were the artists Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, and it was also linked with modernist poets Ezra Pound, who gave the movement its name, and T. S Eliot). 

    The Tate exhibition focuses on the art of the Vorticist movement and the paintings of Lewis, Epstein and Gaudier-Brzeska, showcased in the only two Vorticist exhibitions ever to have taken place. It also highlights the often overlooked female Vorticists, who included Helen Saunders and Dorothy Shakespear. From the exhibition blurb: 

    Vorticism was a radical art movement that shone briefly but brightly in the years before and during World War I. This exhibition celebrates the full electrifying force and vitality of this short-lived but pivotal modernist movement that was based in London but international in make-up and ambition ...

    This exhibition aims to shine a new light on this revolutionary group of artists, presenting the style, radical aesthetics and thoughts of one of the most truly avant-garde art movements in British history.

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Other books by Fredric Jameson