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ELT 38:4 1995 Lawrence, Joyce & Modernism Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson. Writing Against the Family: Gender in Lawrence and Joyce. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1994. χ + 304 pp. $39.95 LN THE REDEFINITION of modernism currently underway, Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson sees a need for reevaluating D. H. Lawrence and James Joyce especially with regard to their handling of "gender" and "family." No longer recognized exclusively for their production of experimental literary forms, fractured syntax, and linguistic innovations, modernists are coming to be appreciated for questioning dominant cultural institutions and colonial oppressors. Literary critics and interpreters of the modernist period generally agree that the effective deployment of identity-forming institutional and national discourses requires a docile family unit which is, in turn, dependent on the construction of stable gender roles. Both Lawrence and Joyce, according to LewieckiWilson , challenge various normalizing cultural systems—including psychoanalysis —by attacking their primary assumptions about gender. Very broadly speaking then, Lewiecki-Wilson credits Lawrence and Joyce with contributing to the breakdown of oppressive societal institutions through their attacks on the traditional family configuration. From the Oedipal structure of Sons and Lovers to the infantile, polymorphously perverse sexuality of Finnegans Wake, Lewiecki-Wilson detects Freud's influence in the works of these two contentious modernist writers. But neither is a pure or ardent disciple of psychoanalysis . Rather, each overturns or extends certain Freudian tenets (though Lawrence's challenge to psychoanalysis falls short of Joyce's ultimately anarchistic agenda in the Wake). Lewiecki-Wilson's "Freudian -like" feminist reading thus appropriately examines certain extraFreudian concerns: his apparent bias against women, and his failure to theorize the social construction of identity through language. Not only does Lawrence "correct" Freud in his two treatises on human psychology, but in his fiction he recasts the Oedipus myth and rejects Freudian notions of perversity. For example, Lewiecki-Wilson contends that Lawrence has Paul Morel in Sons and Lovers develop like a woman." Mrs. Morel has projected onto Paul "the female's psychic location under patriarchy and in late nineteenth-century capitalism," and since Paul, a male, survives his mother, conventional family relations will apparently be suspended at least in his particular world. 554 BOOK REVIEWS Whereas Sons and Lovers refuses Freud's Oedipal conclusions if not his structures, The Rainbow repudiates the entire institution of patriarchy (though Lewiecki-Wilson will tell us later that Lawrence is unable to make this final break.) The novel's open-ended rejection of marriage and assertion of women's independence from reproductive functions prepares us for what Lewiecki-Wilson calls "the negative dialectic" of Women in Love. In its explorations of male and female bisexuality, she finds this novel far more radical than it has been previously credited. Still, she concludes that the great paradox of the Lawrentian canon remains unresolved: "What is the relation between his deconstructing of gender and patriarchy while increasingly affinning male power and relying on patriarchal plots?" As Lewiecki-Wilson (and indeed many feminists) see it, Lawrence is unable finally to resist a number of patriarchal doctrines. Joyce, on the other hand, is more successful. Joyce moves from a position where "women represent the body, men [the] spirit" in the early fiction to a casting off of all repressions and divisions in favor of unrestrained free circulation in the Wake. Whereas A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man constructs a single male personality that rejects materiality and political reality, Ulysses, according to Lewiecki-Wilson, "enshrines no totality other than circulation and desire themselves" (144). It is in the section where she explicates Ulysses, however, that I take issue with some of Lewiecki-Wilson's own assumptions. Discussing the parallels between "advanced consumer capitalism" and the circulation of desire in Ulysses she observes that: Today two or more family members often work. So if there are children and two parents working, there may be little or no communal life that all family members share. During the workday houses are empty of people, though full of consumer items___No longer held together by work or worship the "family" becomes merely the location for, and sentimental stimulus to, consumption. (145) Although I understand that these observations are only part of a long and complex...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 554-556
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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