Date of Award
Master of Arts
Urmila Seshagiri, Lisi Schoenbach
This study presents an attempt to understand the political and aesthetic relationship between two of Modernism’s most enigmatic authors, Wyndham Lewis and Ford Madox Ford by examining their novelistic practice in light of their writings on politics and social criticism. A close look at the use of ironic distance, a hallmark feature in our understanding of modernist fiction, in Tarr (1918) and The Good Soldier (1915) reveals both authors conscious effort to distance themselves from their novel’s subjects, Fredric Tarr and John Dowell respectively. In light of both novels’ satirical element, a scathing attack on bourgeois narcissism caused by the wealthier class’ persistent attempts to identify with hollow and self serving social roles through the sham-aristocratic prestige created by England’s pre-war commodity culture, and the fact that both Fredric Tarr and John Dowell are artist figures that somehow resemble their creators, this project reinterprets Ford and Lewis’ ironic distance as an instance of self-distanciation. From this we can infer that both Ford and Lewis were invested in the modernist idea of impersonality, not just as a artistic or literary technique, but as the artist’s only means of escaping the narcissistic and slothful trap of modern subjectivity, and that, along with the production of modernist art, they saw a continual self-effacement as the price of authenticity, therefore inspiring in them the conviction to live as “uncelebrated stylists.”
Erwin, Chase Morgan, "Uncelebrated Stylists: Wyndham Lewis, Ford Madox Ford, and the Artist as Masochist. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2010.