• David Ayers


Antisemitism marks Lewis as it does Pound and Eliot. It has been the norm until comparatively recently for critics to ignore antisemitism in the case of Eliot,1 whose institutional standing has always been the highest among the three, and to marginalise it in the case of Pound. This situation has arisen partly because Anglosaxon critics have been held under the sway of one or other apolitical account of literature which has led them to ignore what they see as unwise but unimportant prejudices which are in some sense a product of the times and irrelevant to the wider preoccupations of ‘literature’, and partly because methods of describing and analysing antisemitism are only now gaining critical currency.2 Lewis, whose work engages directly and with extraordinary vigour the whole question of the politics of Modernism, has not proved as adaptable as Eliot and Pound to the post-war canon. Lewis’ support for Hitler is explicit, and antisemitism an integral part of his cultural project: largely as a consequence, he remains unread. However, the subject of Lewis’ antisemitism has yet to be adequately addressed, while attempts to reinstate Lewis as a central figure of Modernism have avoided the question entirely.3 What follows here is an attempt to demonstrate that Lewis’ characterisation of the Jew as a mimic and parasite was part of mainstream antisemitic language, and an exploration of the psychodynamics involved. What emerges is a model in which the unstable or incoherent self projects anxieties about its own deficiencies on to the Jew, in a manoeuvre that gives the self a semblance of stability. In the process, the self develops a dependence on the rejected Jew, who becomes a kind of hated alter ego.


Racial Identity Conspiracy Theory Paranoid Delusion Emotional Predisposition Liberal Morality 
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  1. 2.
    See for example the discussions of Alan Durant, Ezra Pound, Identity in Crisis: A fundamental reassessment of the poet and his work (Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1981), pp. 155–8Google Scholar
  2. Paul Smith, Pound Revised (London and Canberra: Croom Helm, 1983), pp. 57–8Google Scholar
  3. Maud Ellmann, The Poetics of Impersonality: T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound (Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1987), pp. 188–90.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Hugh Kenner’s The Pound Era (London: Faber, 1971)Google Scholar
  5. 20.
    Ernst Cassirer, The Myth of the State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1946), pp. 298Google Scholar
  6. 23.
    Jeffrey Meyers, The Enemy: A Biography of Wyndham Lewis (London and Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980), p. 120.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Ayers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Ayers
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KentCanterburyUK

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