Wyndham Lewis vs Charlie Chaplin

Anthony Paraskeva

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    11 Citations (Scopus)


    This article extends and refines the relations between cinema and modernist literature with a close reading of Wyndham Lewis' novel The Childermass in light of his severe critique of Chaplin's mimetic gestures. The Tramp persona, by the time of the novel's composition, had become a symptom, for Lewis, of what he found unoriginal, fraudulent and inauthentic in the culture industry. The two lead characters are compelled to enact routines from Chaplin films by the totalitarian Bailiff, who presides over the afterlife, at times appearing to his subjects as Chaplin. Performative mimesis, as exemplified by the Tramp persona, is transformed in the afterlife into a mechanised cliché which severs movement from volition, and supplants the authentic, anti-mimetic self. The endless reproducibility of individual gestures on film signifies, for Lewis, the deadness of mass-produced Hollywood group personality. The critique of Chaplin reinforces his attacks on Bergson's theory of duration in The Childermass and Time and Western Man.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)223-234
    Number of pages11
    JournalForum for Modern Language Studies
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007


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