These four expensive books are all out of the mainstream of Lawrence studies: a Tufts University dissertation brought out by a German publisher, a Swedish dissertation in English, a study of Nietzsche's influence, and an edition of a brilliant but minor work. The three critical books, which concentrate on the early phase of Lawrence's career, show how difficult it is to say anything new about his exhaustively-mined works. Each of these books discusses Lawrence's explanation of the [End Page 695] decline of society, and each comes up with a different answer. Miliaras claims that Lawrence attributed the blame for the "collapse of the agrarian experience" and the breakdown of the nuclear family "to modern woman and her growing feminist consciousness." Modiano argues that "Lawrence found industrialization to be at the heart of the dilemma facing modern man." And Milton, who rightly states (contra Miliaras) that in The Rainbow "Lawrence makes a woman his representative of the most developed contemporary consciousness," feels that Lawrence thought "the abnegation of responsibility by the governing classes . . . [was] the major cause of contemporary social disintegrating."
All the feminist books on Lawrence—by Smith (1978), Dix (1980), Simpson (1982), Ruderman (1984), Nixon (1986), and Miliaras (1987)—continue the initial onslaught by Kate Millett (1970), which was immediately discredited by Norman Mailer (1971). But it is unclear why they wish to devote several years to writing about a man they hate. Lawrence's main fault, according to the feminists, is that his ideas about women (formulated seveny-five years ago) do not agree with their own current views.
Miliaras' torture-to-read mythological study is badly written and organized, long-winded and repetitious, pedantic, pretentious, and boring. Confused by the contents of her own mind, she offers an astonishing combination of ignorance and arrogance ("Critics of this scene thus are entirely wrong. . . . Such criticisms represent a complete misunderstanding"). Her book is an intellectually irresponsible mixture of free associates (including a "homophonic similarity between the names Jerry [sic] Crich and Jesus Christ"), specious reasoning, and unsupported assertions. She dismisses most literary critics but treats all mythological works as gospel. Her readings are neither convincing nor illuminating; there is virtually no connection between the passages quoted and the interpretations offered, and her conclusions do not follow from her argument.
Miliaras' study "traces, identifies, and evaluates the impact of Lawrence's studies in comparative mythology, religion, and anthropology upon the formulation and development of his sexual and political philosophy as it is manifested in his novels through World War I." Her principal problem is methodological. She claims that Lawrence became familiar with the work of the Cambridge anthropologists through his learned uncle, Fritz Krenkow, whom he visited "at least once a week . . . during the period from 1906 through 1910." Despite these 260 or more putative visits, he mentions Krenkow only four times in the letters of this period, and in April 1912 writes: "I hate his house—full of old books, gloomy as hell, and silent with books." Moreover, Miliaras never establishes that—apart from Jane Harrison's Ancient Art and Ritual—Lawrence ever read any books by her main sources: Rendel Harris, Francis Cornford, and A. B. Cook.
She asserts, without presenting any evidence, that the characters in The White Peacock "obviously derive from his study of the late nineteenth century cultural anthropologists" and confusingly illustrates this by associating Mrs. Beardsall with Demeter, Latona, Leto, Leda, the Greek Magna Mater and the archetypal Lady of the Plants. Miliaras distorts Leslie's brutal decapitation of a rabbit, and claims that "the head, which is a traditional symbol for the phallus [what about the ears, tail and feet?], foreshadows first his spiritual...