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Book Reviews ESSAYS ON LAWRENCE Dennis Jackson and Fleda Brown Jackson, eds. Critical Essays on D. H. Lawrence. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1988. 258 pp. $35.00 Michael Squires and Keith Cushman, eds. The Challenge of D. H. Lawrence . Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990. 217 pp. Cloth $30.00 Paper $12.95 IN THEIR INTRODUCTION to The Challenge of D. H. Lawrence, Michael Squires and Keith Cushman note that while Joyce and Woolf remain fashionable modern novelists among critics, Lawrence appears somehow less central than he did only two decades ago. One reason for this slippage, they argue, is that his fiction has seemed "less receptive to contemporary theorizing" than the work of the more radically experimental modernists. The two volumes under review represent quite different responses to this state of affairs. Part of G. K. Hall's Critical Essays on British Literature series, the volume edited by Dennis and Fleda Brown Jackson assembles twenty-one essays, including pieces on all of Lawrence's major novels and the posthumous Mr. Noon, five on the short fiction and four on the plays, one each on the poetry and the letters, and two on general topics. It is suggestive, I think, that eight of the twenty-one essays were originally published before 1970. Contributors include several prominent critics (Louis L. Martz, Avrom Fleishman, Mark Spilka) and imaginative writers (Sean O'Casey, Anaïs Nin, Joyce Carol Oates) as well as wellknown senior Lawrence scholars (James C. Cowan and L. D. Clark). Younger Lawrencians (Lydia Blanchard, Paul Delaney, Mara Kalnins, and the Jacksons) are also represented but generally by critical efforts no less traditional in approach than those of their predecessors. Only three essays, aside from the editors' introduction, were written especially for this volume and, not surprisingly, these (or at any rate two of them; the third is a brief general commentary on the biblical play David as an epic) are the items most clearly attuned to issues raised in recent theoretical discussions. In the first of these "theory"-laden pieces, Hebe R. Mace offers an interesting analysis of "The Genesis of Lawrence's Poetic Form." Drawing on Eco, Riffaterre, and de Man, he utilizes the methodology of modern linguistics to analyze the rhythmical complexities and metaphorical shifts that work together toward "semiotic transformations" in an 377 ELT: Volume 34:3, 1991 early Lawrence poem, "The Cherry Robbers." Mace's discussion does not, however, convince me that this poem, analyzed in this manner, serves as a paradigm of Lawrence's poetry as a whole. In " 'Reading Out' a New Novel: Lawrence's Experiments with Story and Discourse in Mr. Noon," Lydia Blanchard applies the narratological theories of Barthes and Chatman to an interpretive crux in Lawrence's most recently published novel. Where others have generally faulted the novel's "incoherent" twopart structure and inconclusive terminus, Blanchard—by "reading out" the novel's deep structures—finds a "remarkably tight coherence" in patterns of plot repetitions. Though suggestive, her analysis ultimately misfires because of excessive abstraction. Blanchard is indeed so concerned to find repetition that she overlooks significant variation, in particular the ironic disparity in tone between the two parts. The trivialization of bourgeois courtship customs in Part I of the novel serves as a negative template for the more authentic mating (based on Lawrence's elopement with Frieda) dramatized in Part II. The editors' long introduction is one of the most valuable contributions to Critical Essays on D. H. Lawrence. First, they chart the by-now familiar vicissitudes of Lawrence's critical reputation from the early years of decline and neglect to his triumphant "recovery" in the 1950s, followed by a fruitful consolidation of critical attention in the 1960s and early 1970s upon such masterworks as The Rainbow, Women in Love, and a handful of tales. In addition, the editors provide a very informative description of recent book-length critical studies of Lawrence's canon up to 1985. They point out the increasing attention given to Lawrence's writing in genres other than prose fiction; they consider the impact of the ongoing Cambridge Edition of Lawrence's works; and they summarize recent criticism of Lawrence under the following headings: biographical studies, feminist...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 377-381
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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