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Reviewed by:
  • The Spirit of D. H. Lawrence; Centenary Studies
  • Joseph Voelker
G. K. Das and Gamini Salgado, eds. The Spirit of D. H. Lawrence; Centenary Studies. Totowa: Barnes, 1988. 335 pp. $28.50.

The occasion for this collection of essays was the birth centenary of D. H. Lawrence in 1985. Editorial considerations apparently compelled G. K. Das and Gamini Salgado to impose a deadline of 1982 on their invited contributors. Then publication delays and the death of Professor Salgado held up the volume's appearance until 1988. Generally, the authors were well established senior scholars: there are essays by Louis Martz and John Vickery. Some of the authors—for example Keith Cushman, Kingsley Widmer, John Worthen, and George Zytaruk—have published widely on Lawrence.

The six-year delay is not in itself the cause of the staleness of this volume. Some of the essays seem to have served an earlier term in a desk drawer. Frederick McDowell, in his essay on St. Mawr, writes that "Three critics have recently related this novella to Lawrence's contemporaneous experiences in Europe and America," and his note cites work published in 1966, 1970, and 1973. Thus, when he concludes [End Page 334] that "consensus is emerging that [St. Mawr] is a work of noble stature," we are unsure what half of what decade saw that emergence. Also, the volume is wholly represented by only two schools, the New Critics and the Intense Lawrentians. Albert Devlin is the most overt among the New Critics, and he worries that "The Fox" may indeed be a celebration of both springtime and murder, but "the operative definition of artistic integrity will have much wider boundaries of definition than, say, the formalist critic usually allows." He then goes on to worry over the intentional fallacy.

George Panichas wins the laurel among the Intense. His essay, "D. H. Lawrence: the Hero-Poet as Letter Writer," crosses over into the sermonic. He includes among Lawrence's virtues "honesty" and "reverence," and he concludes: "In caring about things that really matter, Lawrence affirms a restorative heroism, the constituents of which he sees in this ascending order of redemption: 'Patience, tenacity, the long fight, the long hope, the inevitable victory—that's it.' "

Curiously, Raymond Williams' "Foreword" to the volume, dated 1985, addresses a lively diversity in Lawrence studies. Williams observes that there are numerous Lawrences, the feminist one among the most interesting. He concludes that a theoretical explanation that rests on textual indeterminacy is less satisfactory than an Ongian idea of "liveliness of voice . . . at once strongly oral and relentlessly, monologically persuasive." He seems to be introducing a different volume altogether.

In addition to their general noncurrency and neglect of the scholarship of the late 1970s and early 1980s, there is a quality of left-handedness about the composition of these essays. The impression is at times specific, as when George Zytaruk, in "Rananim: D. H. Lawrence's Failed Utopia," writes (illogically): "[Lawrence] and Frieda were married on 13 July, 1914, and in slightly more than two weeks, the world he had hoped to create for them both (and for his fellow human beings as well) was in imminent danger of collapsing." Left-handedness can have it charms, and so can a volume that eschews the vices as well as the virtues of theoretical self-consciousness. Louis Martz, a long-time lover of titles, contributed a characteristically playful piece, arguing that we should henceforth refer to John Thomas and Lady Jane as The Second Lady Chatterley and we should admit that in its Victorian realism it is a better book than the cartoonish final version. This is an engaging performance, although it ignores the second version's bogging down in circumstance, and it refuses to see the modernism, even the expressionism, in Lawrence's cartooning.

Other essays also deserve to be singled out from the volume's general pallidness. John Beer's "Lawrence's Counter-Romanticism" names "quickness" as a mode of meaning in Lawrence and suggests a rhetoric behind Lawrence's radical inconsistency. Kingsley Widmer's essay, "The Dialectics of Passion in Lawrence," is a fresh response, one that refuses to treat criticism as routine labor. Widmer is aware...


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