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Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification$
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Neil Levi

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823255061

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823255061.001.0001

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Fanatical Abstraction

Fanatical Abstraction

Wyndham Lewis’s Critique of Modernist Form as Judaization in Time and Western Man

(p.90) Three Fanatical Abstraction
Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification

Neil Levi

Fordham University Press

This chapter examines the notion of Judaization in English-language modernism. In his 1927 magnum opus Time and Western Man the English modernist writer and painter Wyndham Lewis insinuates that the modernism disseminated by such figures as Bergson, Freud, Proust, and Stein bears significantly Jewish traits, and that the modernism of James Joyce, because it reflects the influence of these figures, should be regarded as a Judaized modernism. Lewis' argument builds upon a revision of Nietzsche's account of the putatively Jewish roots of modern populist and democratic political movements. It is shown that Lewis reads Nietzsche through the lens of what Gil Anidjar calls the Semitic hypothesis, in which what could be said about Jews could also be said about Arabs and vice versa. For Lewis, the truth about the Jews—and the culture they impose upon the West—stands revealed in the figure of the Muslim fanatic. Lewis regards the modernist form he critiques not simply as a symptom of a cultural change that leads to fanaticism but as itself the means of the production of the fanatical subject.

Keywords:   modernism, Jews, James Joyce, Nietzsche, political movements, Muslim fanatic

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