Oriental Lawrence: The Quest for the Secrets of Sex

Oriental Lawrence: The Quest for the Secrets of Sex

Oriental Lawrence: The Quest for the Secrets of Sex

Oriental Lawrence: The Quest for the Secrets of Sex

Synopsis

Oriental Lawrence: The Quest for the Secrets of Sex explores D.H. Lawrence's engagement with Eastern systems of thought, especially Buddhism and Yoga, which were his main sources of interest. It tracks their impact on his thinking and their influence on his fiction. Lawrence looked to the East less for social, political, or cultural resolutions to the chronic problems that beset the West, but to engage with limit-situations - moments of radical transformation when the self sheds its social accoutrements and discovers dynamic new ways of being-in-the-world. He sought those new levels of awareness, new modes of desire, new ways of transmuting the self, and new soteriological goals that the West seemed unable to offer.

Excerpt

This has no pretensions to being a scholarly book in any traditional sense of that term, nor does it offer a comprehensive literary survey of Lawrence’s engagement with the East, though it does not ignore scholarly procedures where they seem called for. They are useful, for example, in charting Lawrence’s (always fragile) knowledge of Eastern thought systems, especially Yoga and Buddhism, which were the focal points of his interest. Because his engagement was eclectic, intuitive, ready-to-hand (he was a classic bricoleur), a rigorous scholarly approach would be, in the end, self-defeating. He seems never to have read systematically the great Yogic and Buddhist texts, which were being translated at more or less the same time he commenced his quest for new “alien” religious and philosophical systems. (He seems never to have read the great Hindu texts— the Vedas and Upanishads—at all). He picked up contingently whatever best suited his writing needs at the time, worked these new insights into his “pollyanalytics” (his speculative essays), and absorbed them later into the fiction (they make their first spectacular on-stage appearance in Women in Love). Such eclecticism is not wholly surprising, since he always maintained a vigorous scepticism towards scholarly approaches and disciplines.

While this introduction makes a broad sweeping survey of Eastern theories and themes, situating them in the widest possible Lawrentian context, the eight chapters that follow are in-depth interpretations that back up with “proper” evidence the claims made in the introduction. They probe the nature of Lawrence’s fascination with Eastern systems, the idiosyncratic twists that he gives them, the roles they play in the fiction, and the narrative needs they fulfil. One point becomes immediately clear: Lawrence looked to the East less for social, political or cultural resolutions to those chronic problems that beset the West, but to engage with limit-situations, i.e. moments of radical transformation when the self sheds its social accoutrements, and discovers dynamic new ways of . . .

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