restricted access Toward a Pitiless Fiction: Abstraction, Comedy, and Modernist AntiHumanism

Countering the trend of modernist fiction, Wyndham Lewis and Laura Riding sought to eliminate, rather than illuminate, psychological depth. The Wild Body (1927) and Progress of Stories (1936) issue from a critique of the role of empathy in the arts, which is rooted in anxiety about power and culture in mass democracies. Theories of abstraction and of comedy are implicated in these fictions as means to a primary end: the replacement of empathetic response with an "anesthesia of the heart." Lewis hoped to effect a fundamental political transformation, Riding, a spiritual one. In the service of their visions, they used fiction to resist imagining other subjectivities