Academic journal article Style

Lawrence and the Creative Process

Academic journal article Style

Lawrence and the Creative Process

Article excerpt

Heidegger, in "The Origin of the Work of Art," says that "[the] work's createdness [...] can obviously be grasped only in the process of creation" and that "we must [...] go into the activity of the artist in order to arrive at the origin of the work of art" (58). To fully appreciate a writer's style one needs to know something of his or her compositional process. Mikel Dufrenne claims that "'operational' theories of art, which have today supplanted 'psychologistic' ones [...] emphasize the result of the creative process and are wary of an analysis of feeling [...]." He concedes that "the study of the creative process does lead us quite readily to aesthetics," and therefore to style, but objects that, "by restricting aesthetic experience to that of the artist, the study of the creative process tends to emphasize certain features of this experience--exalting, for instance, a sort of will to power at the expense of the receptive meditation which aesthetic contemplation calls forth" (xlv-xlvi). Contrary to this operational objectivity, D. H. Lawrence examines the creator's subjectivity in relation to the prophetic or poetic object (or text) in Apocalypse, emphasizing receptive, as well as productive meditation in religious thinker or artist. Facing the duality of absent artist and present work, Dufrenne finds that, while "limiting ourselves to the experience of the spectator, we shall all the same need to evoke the creator. But the creator then in question is the one whom the work reveals, not the one who historically created the work" (xlvi). That is surely a sound principle: style metonymically replaces the man, so that the writer, in effect, becomes his works. But what Lawrence seeks, and what I want to pursue in this essay, is how "genius" operates, i.e., how the prophetic of poetic mind shapes texts, by translating "promptings of desire" (Lawrence, "Foreword" 485), into concrete language that has the power to sway, arouse, of convince a reader.

Lawrence is concerned both with vision--patterns of creative thought or meditation leading to resolution or enlightenment--and expression--rhythmic phrasing and use of interacting images that invite the reader's participation. In examining the technique of divination or prophecy in Apocalypse, he obliquely grasps and reveals the dynamics that underlie his own expressive style. (1) For the writer, ontology and language are dual aspects of the creative process. In his critique of Revelation, Lawrence observes that "the kind of mind that worships divine power always tends to think in symbols" (Apocalypse 84). While the logocentric mind follows a linear causeway, the creative mind flows circuitously, but spontaneously, through images. Despite Dufrenne's caution, the work of art cannot be separated from "the nature of the creative process" (Heidegger 58) that produces it. Lawrence's view of this process is linked with his meditation, in "Morality and the Novel," on the artwork's genesis, visionary power, and mode of being. In the present essay, I relate ontology to stylistics, tracing connections between language and being and between Lawrence's philosophy of creative imagination and his own discursive and fictional styles. Drawing on the phenomenology of David Michael Levin and Merleau-Ponty, who dismantle the barriers between poetic and philosophical discourse, I pay particular attention to the way Lawrence's expressive language enacts the process he describes.

Creative Dynamics: Style with Power

Lawrence sees intuitive, precognitive thinking as a vortex of motion and emotion, spiralling out of the unconscious towards clarification and resolution:

   a thought was a completed state of feeling-awareness, a cumulative
   thing, a deepening thing, in which feeling deepened into feeling in
   consciousness till there was a sense of fullness. A completed
   thought was the plumbing of a depth, like a whirlpool, of emotional
   awareness, and at the depth of this whirlpool of emotion the resolve
   formed. … 
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