The Poetics of Mockery
Wyndham Lewis's 'Apes of God' and the Popularization of Modernism

Mark Perrino

MHRA Texts and Dissertations 40

W. S. Maney & Son Ltd for the Modern Humanities Research Association

1 January 1995  •  180pp

ISBN: 978-0-901286-52-9 (paperback)  •  RRP £25, $40

ModernEnglishFiction


This study reconsiders Wyndham Lewis's adversarial role in the modernist movement through a close reading of his prodigious satire of 1920s cultural politics. It presents a new interpretation of The Apes of God as a Menippean satire, with attention to its style, characterization, allegory, and historiography, and to Lewis's polemics of the period.

Previous studies have emphasised Lewis's 'external method' of visual narration and the personal attacks on the London art world. This one also treats the rhetorical and parodic elements in his mechanistic caricatures of literary impressionism and its proponents, besides the theory of participation and the 'player' behind his schizoid image of the modern subject. The study reinterprets the apprenticeship plot as a carnivalesque discrowning based on the primitive themes of the shaman and the scapegoat. It explores the ways in which the discursive 'broadcasts' - on the social exploitation of a subjectivist aesthetic, publicity as imposture, cultural levelling - are dramatized in the sado-masochistic bond between impresario and naif and in the contradiction of carnival institutionalized. Lewis is shown using his rivals' 'mythic method' to implicate the avant-garde itself in nascent mass culture.

The study includes an analysis of the scandal surrounding Lewis's private edition of The Apes and the defence of 'non-moral' satire presented in his subsequent pamphlet Satire and Fiction. Drawing upon unpublished manuscripts and correspondence, it demonstrates how Lewis's own devious publicity campaign re-enacted the crux of the novel and epitomized his conflicts with his contemporaries.

Bibliography entry:

Perrino, Mark, The Poetics of Mockery: Wyndham Lewis's 'Apes of God' and the Popularization of Modernism, MHRA Texts and Dissertations, 40 (Cambridge: MHRA, 1995)

First footnote reference: 35 Mark Perrino, The Poetics of Mockery: Wyndham Lewis's 'Apes of God' and the Popularization of Modernism, MHRA Texts and Dissertations, 40 (Cambridge: MHRA, 1995), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Perrino, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Perrino, Mark. 1995. The Poetics of Mockery: Wyndham Lewis's 'Apes of God' and the Popularization of Modernism, MHRA Texts and Dissertations, 40 (Cambridge: MHRA)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Perrino 1995: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Perrino 1995: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)


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