- The Enemy Opposite: The Outlaw Criticism of Wyndham Lewis
In The Enemy Opposite Sue Ellen Campbell takes up criticism Wyndham Lewis wrote in the solitary, defiant stance of "the enemy" from 1927 to 1934. As she intimates in discussing his position on "personality," Lewis would himself refuse to disassociate the enemy personality from the one regularly featured in modernism, Lewis the Vorticist and man of 1914. Although she concentrates on his critical performance, Campbell maintains an awareness of the continuing importance (to Lewis) of the visual sense and of his painting. His "Horseman" drawing prefaces the study, and Campbell carefully reads its system of oppositions, dominated by a heady figure who is both modern and quixotic. A 1928 rewrite of the novel Tarr makes its protagonist Kreisler and Tarr admissible as enemy models in the first section of this study, which defines "the enemy." Campbell is an exegetical critic, as little interested in psychoanalysis as her subject was, and provides only a glimpse of historical and personal contexts: referring to his friendship to Ezra Pound, to classes taken with Bergson, and to giving a few quoted reactions to World War One.
Lewis is allowed to emerge on his own terms from the other men of 1914. Unlike the depersonalizing Eliot, Lewis deliberately personalized himself, arraying both position and bias as indicators of mental quality and authority. He had a different classicism from Eliot's, not a structuring framework, but "common sense," meaning shared and communicated elements of a physical world. Readers unfamiliar with Lewis will gain a clear picture of his profound belief in binary categories of opposition, his concentration upon space as a controlled surface, beneath which lurk "micro-cosmic opposites." Campbell makes a good case for Lewis' keen apprehension of major questions of modernism and its zeitgeist. She detects his derivation of categories, both acknowledged (Berkeley) and unacknowledged (Bergson), and explores his method of disguising indebtedness. She considers his importance in providing issues to later critics, particularly on Joyce. Problems with the priggish classicist protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, and with Joyce's "time-mind," which patterns and accumulates, have retained greater interest than original quibbles over "indecency."
Campbell's penultimate chapter on "The Enemy Versus the Zeitgeist" portrays Lewis as a deconstructionist critic of modern science, probing the political and philosophical sources of relativity theory. It also offers two hierarchical models of culture, leaving the proto-fascist binary of thinking masters and unthinking [End Page 336] masses to the assessment of Fredric Jameson. She suggests that the model most operative in the enemy stage is a three-level hierarchy. This model provides a space for the second-rate minds of middlemen and salon culture, a realm for dismissal of supposed unworthies, like his rivals for public attention in Bloomsbury.
The view of modernism Campbell ultimately provides through this study of Lewis has some welcome developments. It studies differences—real and constructed—between Lewis and the other men of 1914—Pound, Eliot, and Joyce. Although Lewis continues to be featured in studies of modernism, he has not been nearly so well anthologized nor kept in print. As if to compensate, Campbell provides very long quotations that sometimes failed to hold this reader's attention. In making her point about Lewis' contribution to Joyce criticism, however, Campbell fails to give Joyce room for a response, and of course there was a remarkable one in Finnegans Wake.
Campbell misses opportunities for a more diverse study of modernism although the leads are here. She passes over Lewis on Stein in a section concerning the Enemy's metaphorical style. She points out only one aspect of the views Lewis held in common with Rebecca West. The category of gender was one that Lewis entertained outrageously at this phase in his career. Campbell discusses the existence of suppressed contraries in the term "domestic adversary" without pausing on the term "domestic." And what of that place of mediation, the middle tier of the cultural hierarchy that Campbell finds more congenial than the binary model? Here was the place for the dismissal...