Unclean streamRepresenting selfhood in Joyce and Lewis

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12578
Number of pages10
JournalLiterature Compass
Volume17
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2020
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Abstract

This article explores questions of selfhood in Joyce's Ulysses and the early work of Wyndham Lewis. I argue that although Joyce apparently uses the stylistic technique of “stream of consciousness” to unravel the consistent agency of the conscious ego, in so doing his writing both echoes the discoveries of early twentieth century science and re‐inscribes the ethical potential of subjectivity. I follow the trajectory of Scott Klein by examining the supposed literary rivalry between Joyce and Wyndham Lewis in terms of contrasting strategies for representing the “I” and the eye, the ego and the gaze. In Lewis' early work with its “wild anthropology,” I trace a critique of the model of subjectivity implied by “stream of consciousness,” a critique that anticipates key aspects of psychoanalytic theory. By switching the narrative centre from the logocentric “I” to the toxic gaze of the Other, Lewis aims to challenge the metaphysical presuppositions of “stream of consciousness” and thus expose one of the defining techniques of modernist writing as deluded or fraudulent. I conclude by examining the political dimension of Lewis' early work, arguing that the modernist stream of consciousness should be seen not merely as a stylistic practice but as an ethical one (in the sense indicated by Marian Eide).

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