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Reviewed by:
Scott W. Klein. The Fictions of James Joyce and Wyndham Lewis: Monsters of Nature and Design. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994. 260pp.

In this ambitious book, Klein reinvestigates the multifaceted relationship of two giants of the modernist project. Extending the stale critical debates that have tended to focus on punctual, autobiographical relations between the two writers, Klein argues that the acknowledged dichotomy between space and time that sets Lewis off from Joyce (and a whole plethora of modernists that allied themselves with Bergsonian durée, in Lewis’s estimation) should be seen not as a singular determining factor, but as “an exemplary pair of oppositions standing for the inclusive dichotomies that define both their aesthetic projects.” Klein [End Page 189] in particular argues, and convincingly so, that the different thematic and stylistic registers in Lewis’s and Joyce’s work are “a measure of the announced philosophical opposition” of their respective aesthetic premises at the same time that they testify to the dynamic, sometimes agonistic, but ultimately productive relationship between the two—a relationship that is at times close to a form of intertextual collaboration.

The introduction maps out the larger aesthetic and political concerns of Lewis and Joyce and suggests, interestingly, how Lewis’s well-known essay “An Analysis of the Mind of James Joyce” (1927) had a formative impact on the trajectory of future scholarship on Joyce, in part because Joyce orchestrated the early critical response to his literary contemporary. Chapter 1, by approaching Blast as a literary-programmatic entity, juxtaposes Lewis’s pronouncements in his early Vorticist manifestoes to Enemy of the Stars and suggests that Lewis performs a kind of self-deconstruction of his own position: for while “the manifestoes insist that the autonomous self is the basis of the artist’s power, the play rejects the efficacy of that philosophy and exposes the Vorticist self as a divisive delusion.” Chapter 2 on Ulysses investigates the division of voice and script in relation to the representation of the self. Klein here persuasively argues that, while neither writing nor speech is given “metaphysical priority” in the early chapters of the novel, writing yet emerges as a vehicle of provisional re-presentation of the self and history—a kind of negotiation between sign and referent that is dramatized in Stephen’s lecture on Shakespeare in “Scylla and Charybdis.” As well, given the novel’s pervasive association of writing with divisive, illicit, but never unifying sexuality, Klein argues that Joyce’s linguistic practice could be subsumed under the notion of adultery, the “master trope” of Ulysses that unites what is paradoxically disjunct: the attempted binding of word and self, and a division that is displayed in the novel’s later chapters where “issues of truth and fiction-making become virtually synonymous with the breaking of contractual bonds.”

Following these ground-laying and largely self-contained chapters, the second half of Klein’s study articulates the aesthetic and political reciprocities in Lewis’s and Joyce’s later work. Chapter 3 suggests that The Apes of God marks a distinct rupture with Lewis’s early writings, mainly because its ontological ground resembles a Baudrillardian world [End Page 190] of pure simulations. Unlike in Blast, where Lewis “blamed representation for falling short of the fullness of origin and therefore misrepresenting the real, in The Apes of God that origin has itself become debased, lost, or invalidated.” Equally important, Lewis’s satire self-consciously engages Ulysses as an “oppositional model” through a series of thematic and stylistic inversions that question, among others, the value of “myth as an authentic mode of representation.” At the same time, The Apes of God also recuperates Joyce’s text “without parodic dismissal” by providing “a partial imitation that does not necessarily hold the imitated text up to revisionist laughter.” Conversely, chapter 4 suggests the constructive presence of Lewis as a “literary archetype” in Finnegans Wake. Central to this argument is that the two major figures, Shem and Shaun, function as an extended allegory of the two possibilities of troping—linguistic and visual—that embody the aesthetics of Lewis and Joyce, respectively, for Finnegans Wake probes the “search for an adequate language that mirrors the...

Additional Information

ISSN
1080-658X
Print ISSN
0026-7724
Pages
pp. 189-192
Launched on MUSE
1995-04-01
Open Access
No
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