States of Estrangement: The Novels of D. H. Lawrence, 1912-1917

States of Estrangement: The Novels of D. H. Lawrence, 1912-1917

States of Estrangement: The Novels of D. H. Lawrence, 1912-1917

States of Estrangement: The Novels of D. H. Lawrence, 1912-1917

Excerpt

Among his peers -- especially those British novelists and poets writing immediately before and during WW I -- D. H. Lawrence stands out as a unique and exemplary figure, for several reasons. Primarily, of course, he is known and esteemed (and sometimes condemned) for having freed sexuality from the chains of Victorian mores, but just as importantly, I think, he should continue to be noted for his energetic condemnation of what he saw as the inhumanity of contemporary society, his refusal to be awed by authority, even when that authority lay in the hands of an aristocracy he in some ways admired, and his irreverent disregard for the often beguiling propaganda espoused by political, financial and moral leaders intent upon quelling dissatisfaction and civil unrest. So, too, can he be admired, although perhaps to a lesser degree, for his proposals to vanquish inhumanity: sometimes prophetic, sometimes problematic as well, but at least until the end of the war always having as their genesis the desire to reinstate humanistic values and the integrity particularly of such beleaguered notions as individuation, love, and honest rather than repressed and repressive relationships.

Of those characteristics I have just mentioned, however, none has particularly inspired me to write the study of Lawrence which follows, although my attraction to him is related to all of them. What I have found more instructive, even at times enlightening, is his consistent and poignant portrayal of individuals trapped in an increasingly fragmentary and confusing industrial urban environment, and following from that, the contemporaneity of his work. Having written extensively about the effects of industrialism upon Victorian novelists before coming to Lawrence, I was intrigued by the place he had assumed, albeit more subtly than, say, Dickens or Gaskell, within an already lengthy and established British lineage of artistic protest against the social oppressiveness and cultural deprivation of . . .

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