In seeking to establish the connections between BLAST and Irish art, this essay continues a project initiated in recent scholarship by Rebecca Beasley and Scott W. Klein, aimed at placing BLAST in those international contexts to which, at points, the magazine seemed so vehemently averse. The essay begins by tracing references to Ireland in the magazine, mostly pertaining to the Celtic Revival and the associated sense of a natural “mysticism” against which the new “native” English art of BLAST can be – uneasily – defined. On the contrary, as this essay goes on to show, BLAST was in fact deeply indebted to and embedded in specifically Irish networks of artistic production and patronage, most notably through the figures of John Quinn and W.B. Yeats. Finally, the essay explores the heretofore under-examined relationship between the BLAST contributors and the Irish artist and architect, Eileen Gray, whose excision from Lewis’s later accounts of the pre-war period can be seen to continue and exemplify a strategy of disavowal in BLAST, one which imbues the magazine with its singular sense of aesthetic unity, but also arguably militated against any prospect of longevity and evolution for the movement it attempted to foster.1
The publication of Wyndham Lewis’s BLAST was a seminal event in English modernism and in the development of the “little magazine” culture that helped to usher modernism into being. This essay asks what kind of textual production BLAST was and how it might be read a hundred years after its appearance? To what extent was its avant-gardism successful and what meaning can its cultural intervention have today? This essay addresses such questions by considering how readers interpreted BLAST in order to suggest that there was no single reaction to it but rather a series of variable responses. Commentators understood that BLAST was urging a broad cultural renewal (not a narrowly literary or visual one). The essay focuses on four key features of BLAST: its visionary impulse, by means of which it instantiated a new kind of anti-realist art; its hybrid nature, which complicates any reading of it as a singular phenomenon; its preoccupation with human agency, above all the need for independent critical thought; and its use of humour, a central component of its paradoxical modus operandi. The essay concludes by considering Lewis’s later critique of BLAST and Vorticism in order to argue that his negative view of it is misleading because it works with too monolithic a view of what might count as avant-garde success or failure.
Edited by Mihaela Irimia, Andreea Paris and Dragoş Manea
Contributors: Luis Manuel A.V. Bernardo, Lina Bolzoni, Peter Burke, Pia Brinzeu, Adina Ciugureanu, Thomas Docherty, Christoph Ehland, Herbert Grabes, László Gyapay, Donna Landry, Christoph Lehner, Gerald MacLean, Dragoş Manea, Daniel Melo, Mirosława Modrzewska, Rareş Moldovan, C.W.R.D. Mosely, Petruţa Năiduţ, Francesca Orestano, Maria Lúcia G. Pallares-Burke, Andreea Paris, Leonor Santa Bárbara, Hans-Peter Söder, Jukka Tiusanen, Ludmila Volná, Ioana Zirra.