Friday, June 24, 2011

Lewis and the "Vorticist Manifesto"

For the author of section 6 of the “Vorticist Manifesto”, industrialism and modern life have transformed England and brought every region of the world together. Lewis begins by referring to his time period as “The Modern World” (page 1095). To me, the capitalization seems to suggest that the author considers this world to be entirely different from anything that came before it, and it “is due almost entirely to Anglo-Saxon genius. . . . Machinery, trains, steam-ships, all that distinguishes externally out time, came far more from here than anywhere else”. This machinery, coal mining, industrialization, and work-centered way of life in England quickly spread throughout Europe. Lewis writes, “But busy with this LIFE-EFFORT, [England] has been the last to become conscious of the Art that is an organism of this new Order and Will of Man.” For Lewis, the economic gains that have lead to the “new Order” have blinded England to the resulting artistic changes. Lewis sees drastic changes occurring in art forms and state, “Machinery is the greatest Earth-medium: incidentally it sweeps away the doctrines of a narrow and pedantic Realism at one stroke.” Building on these changes from the traditional poetry and writings from England, the Blast authors promote lists, new forms, capitalization, and bolded words.

But the widespread affects of industrialized England do not stop with art. Lewis sees the affects across the rapidly shrinking globe; “By mechanical inventiveness, too, just as Englishmen have spread themselves all over the Earth, they have brought all the hemispheres about them in their original island.” Areas that once appeared a great distance away could be reached in a matter of hours. Trade with far off shores became a realistic goal. Travel became more economical. All at once, the steam engines and new transportation bring distant countries and undiscovered civilizations into frequent contact with England. Lewis says, “It cannot be said that the complication of the Jungle, dramatic tropic growths, the vastness of American trees, is not for us. For, in the forms of machinery, Factories, new and vaster buildings, bridges and works, we have all that, naturally, around us.” As a result of machinery and industrialization, England is becoming a more interactive and wide-reaching nation. Lewis feels that the whole world is within reach for an English citizen, and he believes the industrial focus has changed not only that but also the way people view the artistic process.

Oddly, the same machinery, industrialization, and travel that brought the world together were huge contributors to the nature of World War 1. However, the start of WW1 put a stop to Lewis’ vision of modern literature. It seems to me that the very factors Lewis considered to have changed art were also the factors that destroyed its chances of being recognized—at least as far as Blast is concerned!

1 comment:

  1. Sarah,

    Good insights and observations in your exploration of Lewis's deeply peculiar text. You do a nice job of setting up and discussing the passages you quote. Keep up the good work!