An End of All Explanations: Visualizing and Interpreting Lewisâ€™s Revisions to Part IV, Chapter 9 of Tarr
In my last post, I described a working hypothesis about Wyndham Lewisâ€™s revisions to Tarr: that in producing the 1928 version, he was principally interested in adding voices to the earlier 1918 version, particularly through the addition of FID.
I decided to test this hypothesis by looking at one of the more disturbing chapters in Tarr. Chapter 9 (Chapter 8 in the 1918) of Part IV begins in Kreislerâ€™s apartment following the rape of Bertha. It begins by narrating the aftermath of the rape, and as the chapter progresses it narrates retrospectively the rape itself. Already in the 1918 edition, this chapter is told primarily from Berthaâ€™s perspective. But I was interested to see if the 1928 gave more of her perspectiveâ€”particularly to see whether Lewis increased his use of FID to render her thoughts.
I proceeded in the following way. First, I used Juxta Commons to collate plain text versions of the chapter in each witness. I then used the Juxta Commons TEI export feature, which outputs a TEI file with all variants identified in <app> and <rdg> elements. I then marked up all variants that I considered significant to the question of voice. For each such variant, I added three descriptions: whether the 1928 revision added or removed an instance of character speech; whether it added or removed direct, indirect, or free indirect discourse; and which characterâ€™s speech had been removed or added. I also recorded instances in which narration about particular characters was removed or added. I used the same simple TEI markup scheme to record all of these features: I added a â€œtypeâ€ attribute to every rdg element corresponding to a significant 1928 variant, and specified three attribute values: either â€œaddâ€ or â€œremoveâ€; then either â€œdirect,â€ â€œindirect,â€ â€œFID,â€ or â€œnarrationâ€; then either â€œBertha,â€ â€œKreisler,â€ or â€œother.â€ Once the TEI file was thus marked up, I opened it in the Mandala browser for visualization.
There are a few drawbacks to this approach. First, just because I recorded my interpretations in TEI, and just because they generated graphs, the findings are by no means â€œobjective,â€ or â€œscientific.â€ The results show my own personal, subjective reading of the variations between the two witnessesâ€”and of course I went in to this process looking for changes in voice, and already with a working hypothesis in mind. In order for these readings to become more properly objective, a much greater number of annotators would have to be used. Second, my markup scheme is quite crude. For example, the â€œaddâ€ attribute value doesnâ€™t distinguish between character speech that is entirely new to the 1928 version (i.e., completely new dialogue that didnâ€™t appear in the 1918) and character speech that is merely changed from one form of discourse to another (for instance, a passage that was indirect in the 1918 and turned into FID in the 1928). Further, in the latter case, my markup scheme doesnâ€™t say which form of discourse was replaced in the 1928 revisions. My â€œremoveâ€ is thus not strictly the opposite of â€œadd,â€ since it only specifies character speech that was completely removed from the 1928 versionâ€”not character speech that was changed from one form of discourse to another.
These warnings aside, I believe my results are still significantâ€”and that they support my provisional hypothesis.
Consider the following Mandala visualization:
This graph shows every instance of character speech that I identified as being added or removed by Lewis as he made his 1928 revisions, and shows whether these additions or deletions were carried out on Berthaâ€™s or Kreislerâ€™s speech. It shows that the vast majority of such activity concerned Bertha: Lewis removed 11 instances of her speech and added 55; he removed none of Kreislerâ€™s and added ten.
The results become more interesting still when looking at the particular types of character speech Lewis added and removed. Consider the following, which shows all additions of FID in the 1928, and specifies whose FID Lewis adds:
This shows that of the 41 instances I noted in which Lewis adds FID, 39 of them add Berthaâ€™s FID, and only 2 add Kreislerâ€™s.
Here is one example of a passage in which I indicated added Bertha FID. In this scene, Bertha is narrating an event that came before the rape, when Kreisler is painting her and oddly remarks, â€œYour arms are like bananas.â€ The first passage is from the 1918, and the second from the 1928. Here my highlighting indicates particular variations between the witnesses.
â€œYour arms are like bananas!â€ A shiver of warning had penetrated her at this. But still he was an artist: it was naturalâ€”even inevitableâ€”that he should compare her arms to bananas.
â€˜Your arms are like bananas!â€™
A shiver of anxiety had penetrated her at the word â€˜bananasâ€™: anybody who could regard her arms in that light was inartistic: she was distinctly glad that her â€˜goodâ€™ legs had not been wanted. He was a modern artist of course and it was natural, perhaps inevitable, that he should compare her arms to bananas.
I tagged â€œOh!â€ as an addition of Berthaâ€™s direct discourse, since it didnâ€™t appear at all in the 1918. I did not tag the â€œwarning/anxietyâ€ variant since it doesnâ€™t clearly present a different type of character speechâ€”although â€œanxietyâ€ does perhaps bring us further within Berthaâ€™s subjective perspective than â€œwarning,â€ which may appear more objective to Bertha, possibly indicating detached narration. The longer passage highlighted in blue, however, represents a clear addition of FID. Here the voice of the narrator mixes with that of Bertha: we are clearly taken into Berthaâ€™s thoughts as they unfold (the judgment â€œinartisticâ€ belongs to Berthaâ€™s, and the staccato rhythm of the passage, indicated by the colon, gives us Berthaâ€™s process of thought as is develops), though the use of the past tense and the third-person pronouns continue to indicate the presence of the narrator. In the concluding sentence of this passage, both the 1918 and the 1928 use FID; since they differ only in details, I didnâ€™t tag the variants. This last sentence does, however, provide a useful reminder that FIDâ€”particularly Berthaâ€™s FIDâ€”was already a significant part of the 1918 Tarr, and that Lewisâ€™s revisions in many cases simply intensified the effect.
Here is another example of added FID. In this passage, Bertha narrates the rape itself, referring to Kreisler as â€œit.â€ Again, the 1918 is shown first, followed by the revised 1928:
It had quietly, indifferently, talked: it had drawn: it had suddenly flung itself upon her and taken her, and now it was standing idly there. It could do all these things. It appeared to her in a series of precipitate states. It resembled in this a switchback, rising slowly, in a steady insouciant way to the top of an incline, and then plunging suddenly down the other.
The figure talked a little to fill in an interval; it had drawn: it had suddenly flung itself upon her and done something disgusting: and now it was standing idly by the window, becalmed, and completely cut off from its raging self of the recent occurrence. It could do all these things: it appeared to be in a series of precipitate states: in this it resembled a switchback, rising slowly, in a steady innocent way, to the top of an incline, and then plunging suddenly down the other side with a catastrophic rush.
The variant highlighted in red, â€œtaken herâ€ / â€œdone something disgustingâ€ clearly moves us further into Berthaâ€™s own subjective perspective: while â€œtaken herâ€ remains somewhat detached, more likely the words of the narrator than of Bertha herself, â€œdone something disgustingâ€ gives Berthaâ€™s own shocked reaction as she struggles to narrate the event. Since both passages were already in FID, however, I did not tag the differences. The passage in green gives new FID recording Berthaâ€™s impression of Kreisler, and I tagged it as such. I tagged the remainder of the passage as added FID, primarily because of the grammatical shift from full stops to colons: as in the previous passage, the colons intensify the effect of watching Berthaâ€™s thoughts unfold before our eyes. While in the 1918 it would be possible to read these analogies as deriving from the narrator, the use of FID in the 1928 clearly suggests that they derive from Bertha herself.
Another significant visualization concerns the removal of narration. The following shows every instance in which narration describing a particular character is removed in Lewisâ€™s 1928 revisions, and whether these narratorâ€™s descriptions concern Bertha or Kreisler.
The chart shows that of the eight instances I recorded as removed narration, all eight removed narration describing Bertha; no narration describing Kreisler was removed. The significance of this can be seen in the following passage, in which Bertha attempts to come to terms with the significance of the rape:
Â She now had to go away as though nothing had happened. It was nothing. After all what did it matter what became of her now? Her body was of little importanceâ€”ghosts of romantic consolations here! What was the good (seeing what she knew and everything) of storming against this man. She saw herself coming there that afternoon, talking with amiable affectation of interest in his work, in him (in him!), sitting for him; a long, uninterrupted stream of amiability, talk, suddenly the wild few minutes, then the present ridiculous hush.
The moral, heavily, too heavily, driven in by her no doubt German fate, found its mark in her mind. What Tarr laughed at her forâ€”that silly and vulgar mush, was the cause of all this. Well!
Now she had to take her departure as though nothing had happened. It was nothing actually, nothing in fact had happened: what did it matter what became of her? The body was of little importance: what was the good (seeing what she knew and everything) of storming against this person?
Rather than primarily adding, the revisions here mostly remove. A few details do give us more of Berthaâ€™s thoughts: for instance, â€œHer bodyâ€ becomes â€œThe body,â€ the narratorâ€™s third person pronoun replaced with Berthaâ€™s own definite article; and Berthaâ€™s description of Kreisler as a â€œpersonâ€ rather than a â€œmanâ€ is given, the latter being a nomination more likely to come from the narrator. But most significant here is the extensive removal of the narratorâ€™s judgments of Bertha. The character Tarrâ€”widely seen as a mouthpiece for Lewis himselfâ€”repeatedly complains of Berthaâ€™s penchant for interpreting her life through the lens of German romanticism. In the 1918 edition, the narrator twice steps away from Berthaâ€™s own thoughts to deliver authoritative judgments upon them, linking Berthaâ€™s way of thinking, like Tarr does, to the distortions of a German romantic lens. Indeed, in the final part of this passage in the 1918, Bertha is shown to accept Tarrâ€™s judgment of her. In the 1928 version, these authorial judgments are completely removed, as is the notion of Berthaâ€™s agreeing with them, and we are left only with Berthaâ€™s FID.
Working on the versions of this particular chapter has raised for me a few ethical problems. First is the ethical problem of a male writer (Lewis) trying to imagine a female characterâ€™s reaction to a rape. It seems to me that FID presents possibly the â€œleast unethicalâ€ narrative technique in such a case. Direct discourse would risk appropriating a voiceâ€“mistakenly imagining that Berthaâ€™s perspective could be reproduced fully and accurately. Authorial judgments like those just described seek in a detached manner to describe what cannot be understood from a detached perspective. FID represents a middle ground, giving some of Berthaâ€™s words, but mixing them with the words of the narrator, and so not claiming to inhabit her perspective absolutely.
The other ethical dilemma is mine rather than Lewisâ€™s: the problem of writing in a detached manner about a male writerâ€™s representation of a female characterâ€™s reaction to rape, and using technical language and graphs to do so. It is an uncomfortable critical position, without doubtâ€”the kind of uncomfortable ethical position in which Lewis is always placing his readers. But as I believe my investigation is showing, Lewisâ€™s revisions aimed precisely at making his readers more uncomfortable, and less able to resolve ethical dilemmas. By providing more of that uncertain mixture of voices, FID, and by removing more of the authorial judgments by which readers might hope to find some ethical anchor in the text, Lewis made reading the 1928 Tarr decidedly a less comfortable experience.
In a passage of FID added to the 1928 editionâ€”one not present in the 1918â€”Bertha struggles to fit the rape into some coherent pattern, but fails: â€œWhat was this to be followed by? By nothing. Her heart sank: with the ultimate thud of nightmare it struck bottom. This was an end of all explanations.â€ Berthaâ€™s concluding words might almost serve as a description of Lewisâ€™s motivations in revising this scene. Here, with added FID and removed authorial judgments, was an end of all explanations.