Aesthetics of Experiment: Imagism, Vorticism and the European Avant-Garde

Lee, Sze Wah Sarah. 2016. Aesthetics of Experiment: Imagism, Vorticism and the European Avant-Garde. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Aesthetics of Experiment: Imagism, Vorticism and the European Avant-Garde)
ECL_thesis_LeeSWS_2016.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (2MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This dissertation is a critical re-assessment of Imagism and Vorticism in relation to the European avant-garde, which both movements aspired towards in their reactions against the contemporary English arts and letters. I explore the implementation of such aspirations in the English arts by chronicling the complex relationship between the English movements and Cubism, the Parisian avant-garde, Italian Futurism and German Expressionism. The thesis argues that Imagism and Vorticism simultaneously modelled themselves on and reacted against their Continental counterparts, in terms of aesthetic concepts, artistic techniques and promotional tactics in creating a modern art.

As movements with contributors of different nationalities and working in different artistic media, including poetry, painting and sculpture, there necessarily exists many aesthetic varieties within Imagism and Vorticism apart from foundational consensus shared by group members. In order to address the complexity of the groups’ make-up and the interdisciplinarity of their avant-garde aesthetics, the enquiry is made through a two-fold approach: firstly, by conducting contextual and comparative studies of significant individuals of the movements, including T. E. Hulme, Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound, to gauge their individual perspectives on literature, visual arts and aesthetic theories; secondly, by considering the heterogeneous nature of these movements and exploring the group dynamics, tensions and rivalries within the movements and with other contemporary groups.

With this dual focus, my thesis reconstructs the cultural milieu through the artists’ works and correspondence, as well as the circulation network of little magazines, publicity and patronage, in order to reconcile the aesthetic and social contexts of Imagism and Vorticism, both in England and beyond. Ultimately, my thesis provides a more comprehensive analysis of the evolution of the English movements’ aesthetics, their relationship with the European avant-garde, and their impact on artistic and literary experimentation in modernist English literature and visual arts.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Imagism, Vorticism, European Avant-Garde, Cubism, German Expressionism, Italian Futurism, Ezra Pound, T. E. Hulme, Wyndham Lewis

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


31 December 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

19 Jan 2017 12:38

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 13:58


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)