Defiant Desire: Some Dialectical Legacies of D.H. Lawrence

Defiant Desire: Some Dialectical Legacies of D.H. Lawrence

Defiant Desire: Some Dialectical Legacies of D.H. Lawrence

Defiant Desire: Some Dialectical Legacies of D.H. Lawrence

Synopsis

Kingsley Widmer, one of the most insightful and provocative learned critics, has long had a considerable influence on D. H. Lawrence studies. Here he elaborates the crucial argument that the erotic conversion experience and its dialectic of social negation centrally define Lawrence, thus creating his major legacies.

In dialectically considering all of Lawrence's novels and many of his essays and stories, Widmer carries the issues beyond the texts to Lawrence's literary and ideological inheritors, including Henry Miller and Norman Mailer. In addition, he imbeds Lawrence's fictions and roles in the "dark prophecy" of affirmatively countering the Nietzschean tradition and, in a striking chapter on Lady Chatterley's Lover explores the use of obscenity, sexual ideology, and anticlass utopianism. This is Lawrence as a major dissident culture hero with a still pertinent, drastic revisionism of human responses in a nihilistic world. It is a large and controversial critical view.

Excerpt

A supposedly noted reviewer of one of the preliminary essays for this small book (now rewritten and expanded), comparatively summarized that it was "the best researched, the most provocative, and the most foolish." Given this scholar's conventional pedantic and parochial perspective, I take it as a compliment. But it may also serve as fair warning to the reader. For those continuing beyond such summary, I might note part of the purpose to my learnedly provoking foolishness. the writings of D. H. Lawrence have become a long-established subject--in my mind as well, since I have been critically thinking about him for nearly forty years. Possibly I could cultivate a cautious summary treatment of what I thought I had learned in more than a generation of reading and rereading Lawrence and things about and around him. Or I could attempt some rather specialized plantings. But to confine myself to either of those would be temperamentally uncongenial, and would likely produce small or watery intellectual potatoes, and so I have subordinated both to a more contentious digging. There would seem to be little intellectual utility (though I suppose there could be some worldly advantages) in being either pedantically or swollenly bland. I choose yet again, at the cost no doubt of peculiarity and tendentiousness, in continuing a rather edgy view of the subject, though I try to back it up with some borrowed broad knowledge and some curious cultivation here and there. While I attempt to range a bit, my view is still rooted in immediate responses, including the pervasive sense in rereading Lawrence of a compound of assent and resistance, of combined admiration and irritation, properly resulting in both confirming and countering reactions. I do not . . .

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