Academic journal article Papers on Language & Literature

From Panophilia to Phallophobia: Sublimation and Projection in D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr

Academic journal article Papers on Language & Literature

From Panophilia to Phallophobia: Sublimation and Projection in D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr

Article excerpt

"A man who should see Pan by daylight fell dead."

--D. H. Lawrence, "Pan in America"

"Here we have one of the origins of artistic activity."

--Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality

"Who does not know Turner's Picture of the Golden Bough?"

--James Frazer, The Golden Bough

I

On August 18, 1923, an angry D. H. Lawrence accompanies Frieda to the pier for her departure from New York to England. The married couple had just endured one of their bitterest and most representative quarrels according to their bystander friend, Catherine Carswell; the subject of their argument is not simply Lawrence's adamant refusal to accompany his wife back to Europe. (1) The livid issue between them--as it has persisted for more than a decade--remains Lawrence's resentment over a divided loyalty in her that he insensitively can no longer tolerate: the understandable need in Frieda to see her children stands as the primary reason for her decision to abandon for an undetermined period an emotionally volatile husband as he completes his travel in America and Mexico without her. Lawrence's superb biographer for this period in his life, David Ellis, quotes an unequivocal letter that he writes on August 7, 1923, to Middleton Murry: "F. wants to see her children. And you know, wrong or not, I can't stomach the chasing of these Weekley children" (Letters IV 480, Ellis 124). Frieda is just as adamant and scathing. On board the transatlantic liner, she writes to Adele Seltzer of her complete disgust with her husband's mood and vows not to return to him.

While not justifying Lawrence's lack of empathy, Ellis maintains persuasively that Frieda's persistent guilt feelings, maternal anxieties, and distracted preoccupations over her children were "often to be interpreted by Lawrence as a betrayal" of him (126). After she departs, Lawrence initially embraced the belief that "his mission would have to be sustained alone"; perhaps too optimistically at first, he accepts his new status of independence as an "implicit denial of his relationship with Frieda as the center of his life" (132). As he travels alone in the weeks ahead, he rewrites parts of The Boy in the Bush to include an intrusive vindictiveness about the entire institution of marriage by making Jack suddenly consider the virtues of bigamy; it is an odd and unpersuasive revision of the novel that seems to suggest an attempt by a resentful Lawrence "to contemplate a way of life without Frieda" (136). A typically gracious letter by his loyal companion Gotzsche in late October describes how intensely Lawrence pines for Frieda and how clearly the rationalized confidence in the husband about the value of the separation has dissipated. Lawrence sails back to England in November 1923 in a depressed and anxious state. It is difficult not to connect his condition to Lawrence's view of the return as a major defeat for his bedrock notions of manly authority and self-reliance, involving an inevitable awareness in him of "that overly dependent temperament" (140) he would trace after 1919 to the contorted relationship with his strong-willed and often smothering mother.

Much has been chronicled and analyzed about the months of emotional pain experienced by Lawrence after his return to England--with special emphasis within such commentary on his suspicions about the conspicuous closeness between Frieda and Murry when they meet him on his arrival, and on his distinct feelings of betrayal by his wife and close friend at the Cafe Royal dinner several weeks later. (2) His developing perception of Murry as a sexual rival and narcissistic manipulator, and of Frieda as a potential or actual adulterer, is sublimated effectively in the three "Murry Stories"--"The Last Laugh," "The Borderline," and "Jimmy and the Desperate Woman"--that Lawrence composed during this uncomfortable interlude in Europe before his return to New Mexico with Frieda. …

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