“The Attempt at Objectivity”: Modernism in Wyndham Lewis’s Autobiography
The article considers Wyndham Lewis’s autobiography Blasting and Bombardiering (1937) as an instrument for reassessing modernism and representing it to the wider readership of popular literature. Lewis’s employment of autobiography to conceptualise modernism and position himself within/towards it is a step away from his criticism where modern subjectivity, historical approach to the self, and fictionalisation of autobiography are repudiated. Such change was motivated not only by Lewis’s intention to make money on the audience’s taste for autobiographies and at the same time raise his profile in the recent literary history. The choice of genre also reflects Lewis’s post-war disillusionment with transformative yet detached modernism, with whose aesthetic standards the writer, nevertheless, wanted to maintain association. In this context, the populist intent of the autobiography can be seen as a means of rethinking the failed modernist attempt at objectivity. With the help of the form of autobiography, Lewis playfully subjects to detachment modernism itself, undermining the assumptions of its commitment to difficulty, elitism, and autonomy and highlighting the related tensions within his own aesthetics.