Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Egoist, 1 Jan 1914

The first issue of The Egoist, and it is an exciting prospect in multiple senses: prospect as a sight, as a verb for extracting ore, as something to behold while it grows. Of course it's not really any of those with hindsight.

There's a lot to cover in the issue.

The first thing to catch my interest is the very New-Agey "Views and Comments" (a title that could be plagiarized from TNA, or pastiche'd together from several regular columns). It's applied political philosophy, and a spat with a former contributor. Stephen Byington started writing about "Interference with the Environment" some months ago (see earlier post), and lately has gotten swept up into controversy with the editors (who continue to print his stuff, their rebuttals, and his rebuttals to their rebuttals, a strategy that could also be lifted from TNA). The attack itself is not that interesting and seems more like a sophisticated dodge of the issue by claiming the terminology of the debate is wrong, and that the scope of the debate is too narrow and misfocused. That's pure New Freewoman there.

Anyway, my favorite part of this isn't about Byington at all but about a book on economics they review (shred) by one Henry George. George claims that taking interest on loans is moral because it rewards prior labor. Unfortunately, his example is taking care of a cow in return for milk, etc. The Egoist points out that this is the exact relationship management has to labor, a "trick played on a slow-tempered beast" that steals from its offspring and kills its offspring for veal. A very deft volte-face.

Edgar Mowrer's review of thinkers from France is a bit over-the-top but good to read as it seems that translated French philosophy acted as a kind of shibboleth in the early 20th as it does now. Notes on Bergson especially.

Wyndham Lewis continues his streak of appearances in the periodicals I've been reviewing with "The Cubist Room," an account of an English avant-garde exhibition of paintings. It is especially interesting to me because it begins a trend of nationalization of futurism. That's glib--what I mean is that Anglo-modernists attempt to steal the term "futurism" from the Italians and make it general. Here's what I mean: "Futurism, one of the alternate terms for modern painting, was patented in Milan," opens the article (8). Note the snide edge to "patented." Lewis goes on to claim that Italian Futurism in painting is just "five or six Italian painters" rather than a more powerful "movement" (Marinetti's term for it). Lewis points out that Gino Severini tends to paint contemporary scenes in futurist style, style which cannot change the subject matter into something futuristic. He then explains the competing term "cubism" by similarly rendering it specific to Cezanne and his followers (though it still extends to the artists in question). Then, suddenly, he seizes "futurism" and makes it general: "To be done with terms and tags, post impressionism is an insipid and pointless name invented by a journalist, which has been naturally ousted by the better word " Futurism " in public debate on modern art" (9). It hadn't, as far as I can tell. "Naturally" ousted indeed. The exhibit of artists Etchells, Hamilton, Wadsworth and Levinson [sic, he meant Nevinson]  appears like a volcanic island, described thus: It is very closely-knit and admirably adapted to withstand the imperturbable Britannic breakers which roll pleasantly against its sides." An  image of the crowd at the show, but also of the essential Britishness of these artists.

Porrex and Ferrex, two pseudonyms that seem vaguely familiar (Pound and Aldington perhaps), will have occasional debates in the journal. I'm going to capture a quick moment from this one for my own purposes (comparison to Lawrence Rainey's Institutions of Modernism): "We have gone our own gait—and they call that "neglecting life," and "devitalising one's writing." There is some excuse, even for Monsieur Marinetti, not much—but a little" (10). The accusation of neglecting life or bringing art back into a relationship with life, prefigurations of Burger's theory?

F.S. Flint publishes some very fine Imagist poems in this issue (is there any other kind?). 

Richard Aldington pens an appreciative but sexist and patronizing review of Violet Hunt.

Correspondence is silly, including a fake letter in Cockney written to satirize Huntley Carter.

All for now.

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