Beyond Nietzsche: Savage Worship in Enemy of the Stars

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In this essay the thematic collision between “mythic” and “modern” worldviews is explored in relation to Enemy of the Stars, Wyndham Lewis’s Vorticist play. At the time of writing Enemy of the Stars, Lewis was interacting with a strong current in modernist thought which had grown out of Friedrich Nietzsche’s claim that cultural renewal depended upon art’s return to a cultic origin in the revived forms of “myth” and “ritual”. But at the same time that this sacred origin of art is invoked as a source of cultural regeneration, Enemy of the Stars also subtly reveals the material pressures to which art is subjected in the rationalized modern world. The narrative result is that a primitive ritualistic spectacle is mediated and subverted by the box office of the modern theatre, providing an important parable for the problematic aspirations of modern art.