McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Linda A. Kinnahan
Daniel P. Watkins
Magali Cornier Michael
British modernism, modernism, modernist aesthetics, modernist literature, Virginia Woolf, Wyndham Lewis
This study reveals that the critical and creative work of Virginia Woolf and Wyndham Lewis, while standing at opposite ends of some glaring contradictions in the modernist period, explores a similar set of verbal and visual aesthetic problems that foregrounds the role of the exterior in the well-documented modernist "discovery" of the interior and the search for a unifying psychological reality behind human perception. For both Woolf and Lewis, the object, the visual image, or what this study calls exteriority, retains the power to "make it new," a phrase always associated with the modernist project, but with an important difference. Pound's imagism emphasizes the strict avoidance of all clichéd expressions and calls for the substitution of concrete images for verbal narrative. Woolf and Lewis, on the other hand, create a tension between verbal narrative and the visual image that disrupts the stale conventions of the cultural symbolic order. Woolf's increasing commitment to feminism and pacifism emphasizes the ability of the verbal half of this tension to displace entrenched patriarchal and fascistic imagery, while Lewis's increasing commitment to misogyny and fascism emphasizes the ability of the visual half of this tension to suppress competing verbal narratives. A key theoretical underpinning to this study is W.T.J. Mitchell's Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation (1994). Mitchell's distinction between the traditional comparative method of discussing the relationship between verbal and visual texts and what he calls "image/text" is an important one, since its basic premise is that all media are mixed media. Mitchell's image/ text approach is particularly valuable to the verbal/visual relationship that characterizes the work of Woolf and Lewis, creating a dialogue between the verbal and visual that ultimately refuses to subsume one entirely within the other. The overall conceptual framework for this study is the perceptual shift from the romantic emphasis on sympathetic identification with the object to the modernist emphasis on empathetic identification with the object that underscored the visual aesthetics of modernism as well as the work of Woolf and Lewis.
Vincent, T. (2005). Moments of Seeing: Woolf, Lewis, and Modernist Exteriority (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1313