The Politics and Philosophy of Wyndham Lewis's Representations of the Body

Brent, Trevor Lovelock. 2005. The Politics and Philosophy of Wyndham Lewis's Representations of the Body. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The Politics and Philosophy of Wyndham Lewis's Representations of the Body examines the significance of representations of the body in the written work, both theoretical and fictional, of Wyndham Lewis. The central question of the thesis is: how does the body function as a ground for identity in Lewis's work? This question is addressed by looking at five thematic areas of Lewis's work, each of which forms the basis of a chapter: reality, mind-body dualism, gender, race, and the crowd.

The work of Slavoj Zizek is used to argue that Lewis's theoretical work is characterised by an antipathy towards 'the passion for the Real' and a desire to maintain a belief-sustained sense of 'reality'. As a result, the body has an ambivalent status: it is both an emblem of the 'reality' of the personality and a threat to it, representing its unavoidable 'thingness', its 'Real', as it were. This ambivalence is best expressed in Lewis's fiction, where the weaknesses and inconsistencies of his theories are dramatised and exposed.

Lewis's ambivalence towards the body results in a split between his theory and his rhetoric, a split that is particularly noticeable in his work on gender and race, in which initially racist and sexist language is undercut by his theoretical discomfort with the biological grounds of such rhetoric. This ambivalence characterises Lewis's often controversial politics, which cannot be understood without it being taken into account.

The thesis concludes that Wyndham Lewis had a fundamentally ambivalent attitude toward the body: it fails to provide a solid ground for identity, and yet it refuses to melt completely into air. This persistence of the body makes it a crucial sticking point, and Lewis produces compelling and contradictory images of it which attest to its implacable significance in his work.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


identity, mind-body dualism, reality, gender, race, Wyndham Lewis

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature



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Date Deposited:

08 Jun 2020 08:58

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:37


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