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.
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.