Re-examination of the work of T. E. Hulme
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This project challenges a series of common interpretations of Hulme's work: that his arguments are contradictory; that his career can be separated into distinct “phases”; that he endorsed other thinkers' ideas uncritically; and that he promulgated authoritarian politics. Chapter 1 examines the entries in Hulme's notebooks that relate his views on the nature of reality and language. Read through ideas in the works of Bergson, Nietzsche and Ribot, these rudimentary notes present a coherent “anti-intellectualist” philosophical position, consistent with claims made in his later writings. Chapter 2 focuses on “A Lecture on Modern Poetry.” Hulme's rejection of nineteenth-century verse was part of a broader campaign by poets in London to find new ways of expression, yet his ideas stand independently of claims made by Flint, Storer and Pound. Hulme's greatest contribution to Imagism is the emphasis he put on the use of images in poetry, a method that follows from the distinction he drew in the notebooks between “direct” and “indirect” language. Chapter 3, which examines Hulme's essays and lectures on Bergson, demonstrates that, although he embraced Bergson's philosophical method, Hulme remained critical of many of Bergson's theories. This discredits the claim that he was simply reiterating Bergson's ideas. Ultimately, Bergson's “intuition” enabled Hulme to develop his earlier description of “modern” poetry and to recast it as “classic” poetry. Chapter 4 investigates Hulme's political essays. Together with Storer, Hulme participated in a debate in the Commentator concerning the parliamentary crisis of 1910. It was as part of an attempt to create an efficient propaganda strategy for the Conservative party that Hulme postulated his famous antithesis between Romanticism and Classicism. Hulme's analysis of the process of political conversion shows that in 1910-12 he had not abandoned elements in his thought from Bergson's philosophy. Moreover, far from sharing the authoritarian political views of the Action Française, he can be more accurately described as a “moderate Conservative.” Chapter 5 demonstrates that claims Hulme made in his art criticism are consonant with the general reaction in 1913-14 against representational art. While drawing heavily on Worringer's anti-materialist conception of art history, he was using it to defend his contemporaries' experimentation with geometric forms, in a way similar to Fry and Bell. Although, like Worringer and Ludovici, Hulme campaigned for antihumanism and mixed aesthetics with politics, the model of art he proposed did not carry the authoritarian implications of those of Worringer and Ludovici. Finally, Chapter 6 explores Hulme's war writings. Hulme was not a militarist; rather, he supported Britain's involvement in the war on the grounds that war against Germany would protect the British political institutions. He stayed true to his Conservative principles, using ideas from Sorel and Proudhon to dissociate the “democratic” from the “pacifist” ideology. There is also evidence that, despite his explicit rejection of vitalism in “A Notebook,” Hulme continued to value Bergson's method of “intuition” right up to his death in 1917. This project, therefore, argues for a re-interpretation of Hulme's work and shows the value of scrutinising the intellectual and political context in which he was writing in understanding the precise nature of his thought.