Theorizing Lawrence: Nine Meditations on Tropological Themes

Theorizing Lawrence: Nine Meditations on Tropological Themes

Theorizing Lawrence: Nine Meditations on Tropological Themes

Theorizing Lawrence: Nine Meditations on Tropological Themes

Excerpt

The word “meditation” in the title of this book needs both justification and explanation since it is not the usual epithet applied to works of literar y criticism. Yet in this particular case, it bears impor tantly on the design of the book and on the critical techniques used to engage the Lawrentian texts. In my non-specialized use of the term, meditation connotes, not a quest for introspective or ineffable insights, but an act of close at tention, a space of intense concentration that brings into focus the rhetorical contours of these texts. It takes up a text, peruses it with a cer tain detachment, and experiments with disparate mind-sets or meta-systems to clarify its narrative shape. From a distance, it draws nearer the text, less to appropriate it than to free it for structure and meaning. Within the domain of literary theory, it employs a variety of critical approaches without absolute commitment to any—each trial, as it were, teasing the ground, prospecting new possibilities, viewing pat terns and contours through different prisms or lenses. The master trope is spatial, not temporal, the circle, not the straight line. Each approximation reveals new tropological constellations, highlighting peak points and recesses. Such an approach insistently works against closure, since it neither draws final conclusions, nor demands an exclusive commitment to the particular method it adopts. Its movement is always a lateral dance from one perspectival site to another without ultimately settling on any.

If the master trope is spatial, then the dance is its particular figure. The dance, in effect, organizes the relations of these nine meditations to one another, and to the whole that contains them. Though each meditation is complete in itself (like a single dance movement), the nine meditations revolve around (or dance back to) the same rhetorical motifs and structures. Different meditations, for example, may focus on the same scene in a Lawrence novel, but from different theoretical . . .

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