About the Project
A dual task: to explore that past,
yet reach the hilltop whence at last
we view the future’s clear expanses.
–Jack Lindsay, ‘My Life of William Morris’
JACK LINDSAY (1900-1990) was a writer and a visionary, a tireless worker for social equality and justice, a polymath and cultural activist, and a deeply introspective man searching for the meaning of individual goodness and integrity as well as for what constitutes the best form of social and political organization.
Jack Lindsay earned his living as a writer and publisher and he was prolific, publishing over 160 books in many different genres and on a range of topics. His scholarship was interdisciplinary: he translated classical texts; wrote poetry and verse plays, play scripts, historical and contemporary novels and biographies, historical studies, literary and art history and criticism, cultural and archeological studies, and analyses of science and religion. He was one of the founders of Fanfrolico fine art press and edited of a number of literary journals and magazines, including Vision, London Aphrodite, Our Time and Arena. The focus of all these journals was literature – whether as a primarily artistic practice, campaigning for a world of art removed from the world of human beings as in Vision, or with literature as a cultural practice that enables us to examine our world, finding ways to understand its current state and to re-imagine our society and our world as in Arena.
Jack was also a political activist, a socialist whose political exploration started during his teenage years in Brisbane at the University of Queensland. There he worked on social justice issues and was part of a campaign for Indigenous Rights. He supported the victory of the workers in Russia in 1917 and argued against capitalism and for a communist society. After a divergence into the bohemian world of his father, the artist Norman Lindsay, he moved to the U.K. in 1926 and soon after re-discovered his early politics. He campaigned for workers’ rights, began to read Marx’s work and in 1941 joined the Communist Party of Great Britain. That allegiance affected his life and work profoundly.
For the rest of his life Jack would struggle to identify and describe the best kind of human society, which would afford the individual with the greatest degree of freedom. This definition did not endear him to doctrinaire elements within the Communist Party, while his allegiance to socialism and membership of the Communist Party put him at odds with conservative forces in the West, particularly during the Cold War. For Jack, however, his path was determined by an oath taken in his youth to reject the world of money and status and to live by his art, which he then enlisted in the search for individual and social integrity and wholeness.
THE FULLNESS OF LIFE
In the early 1970s Lindsay wrote an extended study of the development of his ideas as they are realized in his writing. In his own words, it describes his struggle to bring together his vision for the arts with his understanding of how we know and understand our world, and he concludes: ‘… the connection that I can thus point to between the innermost intuitions in [his first book] Dionysos and the Marxist aesthetic does, I think, bring out the element of continuity in my positions as well as the movement, erratic but constant, into a fully Marxist aesthetic.’
The unpublished manuscript titled ‘The Fullness of Life: The Autobiography of an Idea’ is reproduced on this site as both scanned image and transcript. This is done with the permission of Jack’s children, Helen and Philip in order to make this manuscript available to scholars. The original is held now in the Library of the University of Technology Sydney.
AIM OF THE PROJECT
The aim of this project was to identify how Jack Lindsay was able to move critically across disciplines and across media to create an understanding of cultural and social practices and their impact on the formation of embodied social subjects – a mode of analysis and knowledge-formation that is vital today, in a world that is increasingly multimedia, multimodal, trans-disciplinary and trans-cultural.
The study set out to address a number of interrelated issues:
- how Jack Lindsay related cultural production (literary, visual, aural) to social and political context and meanings and to individual engagement (embodied subjectivity) in both his critical and his creative work, as writer and translator
- how the critical and design principles deployed by Jack Lindsay can inform contemporary critical and design practice
- how Jack Lindsay’s work informs our understanding of creativity, and how this can be applied across disciplines (from arts to sciences)
- how Jack Lindsay’s work deconstructed the notion of aesthetics, revealing the ideological assumptions of 20th century aesthetics
THIS WEB SITE
This site records and makes publicly available some of the materials discovered in the course of the research, most importantly the manuscript described above that is Jack’s own answer to the research question. It also provides biographical information, excerpts from the Secret Service files that were compiled about him, a bibliography of his books and selected bibliographies of writings about his work, and lists the publications and presentations based on the research.
Professor Anne Cranny-Francis
University of Technology Sydney