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The Geometry of Modernism

The Vorticist Idiom in Lewis, Pound, H.D., and Yeats

By Miranda B. Hickman

Publication Year: 2005

Addressing both the literature and the visual arts of Anglo-American modernism, The Geometry of Modernism recovers a crucial development of modernism's early years that until now has received little sustained critical attention: the distinctive idiom composed of geometric forms and metaphors generated within the early modernist movement of Vorticism, formed in London in 1914. Focusing on the work of Wyndham Lewis, leader of the Vorticist movement, as well as Ezra Pound, H.D., and William Butler Yeats, Hickman examines the complex of motives out of which Lewis initially forged the geometric lexicon of Vorticism—and then how Pound, H.D., and Yeats later responded to it and the values that it encoded, enlisting both the geometric vocabulary and its attendant assumptions and ideals, in transmuted form, in their later modernist work. Placing the genesis and appropriation of the geometric idiom in historical context, Hickman explores how despite its brevity as a movement, Vorticism in fact exerted considerable impact on modernist work of the years between the wars, in that its geometric idiom enabled modernist writers to articulate their responses to both personal and political crises of the 1930s and 1940s. Informed by extensive archival research as well as treatment of several of the least-known texts of the modernist milieu, The Geometry of Modernism clarifies and enriches the legacy of this vital period.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Literary Modernism Series


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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p. vii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xx

In his 1993 play Arcadia, Tom Stoppard features the concept of geometry in two conspicuously different lights: at moments, it is construed as the discipline that illuminates the elegant patterns underlying chaotic human life—and at...

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pp. xxi-xxii

I still remember the fi rst time I encountered Jerome Mc- Gann’s persuasive argument that textual production was an inherently social and collaborative process. Although this book has largely been a solo endeavor, I know, in hindsight, ...

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p. xxiii

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pp. 1-26

A famous injunction, engraved on the front of the Pythagorean Academy and reiterated by Plato, dissuaded any from entering the academy who were “ignorant of Geometry.” Although knowledge of geometry was not quite a prerequisite...

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Chapter 1

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pp. 27-88

In 1915, Wyndham Lewis characterized Blast, the British little magazine of which he was editor, as a “history book.” In his prefatory remarks to the latter-day reprint of the magazine by the Black Sparrow Press, Bradford Morrow underscores Lewis’s use of this phrase to describe Blast—so it has become familiar to...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 89-132

Between 1925 and 1930, as he warmed to the project of The Cantos, Ezra Pound brought out three deluxe editions of installments of his “Poem of Some Length”: A Draft of xvi. Cantos appeared through William Bird’s Three Mountains Press in Paris in 1925, A Draft of the Cantos 17–27 through John Rodker in London 1928...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 133-186

Near the end of H.D.’s novella Nights (1935), protagonist Natalia Saunderson meditates on the geometric forms of her sister-in-law’s house.1 With lyric intensity— developed through H.D.’s characteristic prose techniques of parataxis, syntactic parallelism, and insistent repetition—Natalia not only admires the...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 187-244

Among the moderns, W. B. Yeats and H.D. have become fabled, at times even notorious, for their intense fascination with the occult. As Materer notes, while several of the chief modernists, including Pound and Eliot, have been widely recognized in recent scholarship for their interest in esoteric wisdom, Yeats and...

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pp. 245-254

At the outset of this study, I addressed the ways in which chronicles of modernism’s history have repeatedly displayed an investment in a caricature of the periodical Blast as pugnacious, antic, larger than life. This confined, easily...


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pp. 255-304


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pp. 305-318


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pp. 319-332

E-ISBN-13: 9780292796720
E-ISBN-10: 0292796722
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292709430
Print-ISBN-10: 0292709439

Page Count: 358
Illustrations: 17 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Literary Modernism Series
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OCLC Number: 62757954
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Geometry of Modernism

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • English literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Modernism (Literature) -- English-speaking countries.
  • Yeats, W. B. -- (William Butler), -- 1865-1939 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • H. D. -- (Hilda Doolittle), -- 1886-1961 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Lewis, Wyndham, -- 1882-1957 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Pound, Ezra, -- 1885-1972 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Fascism and literature -- English-speaking countries.
  • Vorticism -- English-speaking countries.
  • Geometry in literature.
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