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174 REVIEWS I. Lawrence as Oedipus. Daniel A. Weiss, Oedipus in Nottingham. University of Washington Press, 1962. $4.50, This examination of D. H, Lawrence's psychicstate at the outset of his career, when the major decisions were being taken which settled the course of his unsettled life, provides no surprises. Its thesis is that "there is an important correlation between [Lawrence's] life and his art, of which his art is the chronicle." Its plan is indicated by the titles of the two central chapters, "The Father in the Blood," and "The Mother in the Mind." These are followed by a concluding essay, "The Great Circle," detailing Lawrence's struggles with various aspects of love as they appear in his writings, relating them to autobiographical and biographical materials, to psychological insights by Freud, Jung, Jones and others, and to mythology, especially the death and resurrection of Christ. There is no need to recapitulate the development of the argument here since it moves along predictable and familiar lines differing from previous psychonalytic treatments of portions of Lawrence's career chiefly by minor shifts of emphasis in keeping with the author's intention. The evidence is carefully marshalled, the treatment is sufficiently full, and the conclusions, given the author's basic premises, are acceptable. We are fortunate, in the case of Lawrence, in having a great deal of Information about both the writer and his works, information of a kind particularly useful in a study of them which is undertaken from a psychoanalytic standpoint. Professor Weiss has made the most of it. But he has done so within self-imposed limits. His use of psychoanalytic ideas is conservative, their application being severely restricted to the content of Lawrence's work; form is hardly mentioned. This is a virtue as far as it goes, but it may legitimately be asked whether even more light might not have been cast upon the problem of the artist and his writings if the author had been a little bolder. It is his contention that "at its best...psychological criticism should constitute a bureau of tragic or comic weights and measures, testing in the work of art for the organic, psychologically valid material." He feels further that psychology should be used in criticism only to expose any violations of probability or reality which the author may have brought into his work, whether for aesthetic purposes or simply through error. In his view, psychology—which in this context apparently means psychoanalysis — is merely a touchstone for the accuracy of the behavior of fictional characters. "It should recognize that the psychological background for a work of art constitutes, so to speak, its energy, but not its form, to which it is the parent." There can be no quarrel as to the relevance of psychology to the portrayal of human actions in fiction, but to stop there is to deprive oneself of the potentialities for further understanding which were brought to the attention of the scholarly community most notably by Ernst Kris in PSYCHOANALYTIC EXPLORATIONS IN ART and to which contributions have been made since by both psychoanalysts and critics. Thus, while accepting Professor Welss's account of Paul Morel's relationships with the three women in SONS AND LOVERS as valid, it is possible to add that these relationships are characterized by a repetitive compulsion, indicating a vicious circle out of which Paul is unable to break, that this psychic disharmony is never 175 resolved either characterologicalIy or fictionally, and that the book therefore suffers from a structural weakness which is not overcome by Lawrence's mere assertion in the very last sentence that Paul turns to the lights of the town, i.e., chooses life rather than death. It may be argued that this idea is precisely what Lawrence intended to convey; it may even be argued—Professor Weiss hints at this—that Lawrence himself had attained such a resolution of his own conflict and took this means of recording it. But it seems to many readers to have the ring of a wish-fulfilling statement which flies in the face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary that the book so abundantly adduces. As an indication...


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pp. 174-175
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Will Be Archived 2021
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