The ways that gender ideologies are encoded in literature and narrative configurations have long been concerns of feminist criticism. Recently, these concerns have also led to an investigation of the gender biases that inform other intellectual pursuits, and particularly the discipline of science. Donna Haraway, Evelyn Fox Keller, and Sandra Harding, for example, have shown how the ostensibly "objective" discourse of science - as well as much of the epistemological matrix of the Western world - bears the imprint of patriarchal authorship, mainly by reproducing inscriptions of gender in its models and texts. What remains to be explored, it would appear, is the three-way interaction between gender, literature and science, and what further encourages such an investigation is the current scholarly emphasis upon the way that changes in scientific theory are reproduced in changes in literary style and form.
The work of D. H. Lawrence lends itself to such an interdisciplinary investigation particularly well. Gender issues and the relationship between the sexes in his work have long been at the forefront of critical analysis (and have furthermore been invited by Lawrence's widely known statements on the topic); in addition, Lawrence evolved a lifelong and complicated relationship to the science and technology of his day. Following the largely anti-scientific esthetic of the British Romantics, for example, he located his narrative cosmos along the fault line of the organic and the mechanical, whereby the recuperative agency of the natural is almost always juxtaposed to the destructive effects of the technological. Because Lawrence believed that humankind's continued exposure to the rationalization and mechanization of the modern world engenders a condition of pure intellection that represses instinctual urges and desires - what he was fond of calling "blood-consciousness" - the Machine and Science in his world frequently operate as a threat to an almost prelapsarian Eden, as a figuration of the Fall: humankind's original sin.
Lawrence, however, was in his own way also interested, and positively so, in scientific and technological developments. He knew and approved of Einstein's Theory of Relativity because it confirmed his belief in the total interdependent connectedness of the universe: that "the whole thing hangs inevitably together," as he himself put it (Fantasia 11). Einstein also valorized his contention that "there is no [single] absolute principle in the universe" and that "everything is relative" (Fantasia 182), and Lawrence viewed Relativity as a theory that could transcend the rigid causalities of his scientific nemesis: logical positivism. Lawrence described logical positivism as "objective science" and as a "science of the dead world," and opposed to it his own "subjective science" (Fantasia 12). In contrast to logical positivism, where reality is registered through the conscious mind or through independent observation, Lawrence advanced the theory that reality can be apprehended directly through a series of symmetrically arranged centers on the body and that this reality can be confirmed by appealing to the intuition of others. Clearly, such a corporeal apprehension is, even by contemporary accounts, fantastic in the extreme. What is important, however, is that many of Lawrence's deeply-held beliefs, such as the relativity or flux of reality and the observer's participation in that flux, have much in common with the physics of the twentieth century. In the words of N. Katherine Hayles, while Lawrence was "ignorant of much factual knowledge about the new science," he "anticipated the spirit of its principal results" (86).
This essay continues in the spirit of such revisionist criticism and seeks to retrace the dialogic relationship between Lawrence's literary texts and the text(s) of science. Instead of focusing on the affinities between Lawrence and quantum physics, however, I would like to lay bare some of the points of intersection between Lawrence and the science that was most visible in his day, particularly in its industrial manifestation of steam engines and locomotives: thermodynamics. Michel Serres has already suggested the contemporary importance of "the technologies, theorems and protocols concerning heat," and that it "was thermodynamics that shook the traditional world and shaped the one in which we now work" (Hermes 39). Taking my cue from Serres, I will argue that the protocols and theorems of thermodynamics - the principles of the conservation and of the irreversible dissipation of energy, but particularly the circulation of energy within a polarized system of hot and cold - operate as organizational models in Lawrence's world, and further, that these principles become a paradigm for his management of gender relationships. I will then show how thermodynamic principles function in concentrated form in one of Lawrence's most famous stories, "Odour of Chrysanthemums." My overall purpose is to suggest that, while Lawrence hedged a distrust against scientific thinking and frequently exposed its limitations, his writings show suggestive evidence of an interdisciplinary crossover from science to fiction; although Lawrence was generally resistant to the science of his day, he intuitively discovered within its models a new ground for narrative organization and literary form.
The laws of thermodynamics are the central contribution of 19th-century science and were made possible by the conceptual unification of physics. While Newtonian physics was largely responsible for the science of mechanics, it ignored other natural phenomena such as magnetism, electricity and heat. The physics of the 19th century, however, integrated magnetism, electricity and heat into a shared matrix of inquiry because it was interested in investigating the unity and interconvertibility of all natural phenomena. As a result, 19th-century physics posited that these phenomena were all conceived as molecular particles of matter in motion, and this common ontological ground of physical reality, in turn, was expressed in the notion of energy. As Peter M. Harman explains, "The concept of energy provided the science of physics with a new and unifying framework and brought the phenomena of physics within the mechanical view of nature, embracing heat, light, and electricity, together with mechanics, in a single conceptual structure" (2). Energy could be converted and changed in its material manifestations, but its sum total remained constant: the first law of thermodynamics.
To formulate its laws - and in distinct reversal of the traditional flow of knowledge from scientific theory to practical application - the emergent science had to enlist the assistance of industrial steam engines. It was especially in the propositions of Sadi Carnot, a mechanical engineer and scientific pioneer, that thermodynamics was based on a theoretical, and hence scientific, footing. In Reflections on the Motor Power of Heat (1824), Carnot discussed the operation of steam engines and advanced a general theory of heat engines. He principally argued that the capacity of a heat engine is a function of the absolute temperature differential between a hot body or reservoir (usually the furnace) and a cold body (usually a condenser). As long as heat can travel from the furnace to the condenser, the steam engine can be used for the production of work (usually the motion of the piston), but the moment that this temperature differential levels out, the engine, and with it the circulation of heat and the production of work, comes to a standstill. Only as long as a temperature difference between the two bodies exists can heat flow and move the piston (Cardwell 190-96).
These insights - the notion of heat circulation from a hot to a cold body, as well as the principle of energy conservation (and to a lesser degree, of energy dissipation, the second law) - fundamentally underlie Lawrence's cosmology and work. Much of his thinking, what we could call Lawrence's "thermodynamic imagination," derives fundamentally from 19th-century physics.
To say that thermodynamic protocols are operative in Lawrence's writings is, of course, not to say that he consciously modeled his work on their theoretical precepts. The science of heat was already deeply embedded in the cultural imagination of late Victorian England - part of the "climate of opinion," as Whitehead would say - so that Lawrence could easily have absorbed thermodynamics through cultural osmosis. Greg Myers, for example, has recently shown that thermodynamic concepts entered the late Victorian cultural mainstream through a barrage of social prophecies, such as the quasi-religious treatise The Unseen Universe (1875), coauthored by the two popular though controversial physicists, James Balfourt Stewart and Peter Guthrie. Combining deep theological commitment with the notion of energy as divine emanation, the book went through more than a dozen editions and included thermodynamic protocols only as a by-product. Primarily a crusade for a benevolent God, their book was at the same time centrally instrumental in spreading the gospel of heat and steam (Myers 309). As James Clerk Maxwell put it: "There must have been many who …