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CHARACTER AND CONSCIOUSNESS: D.H. LAWRENCE, WILHELM REICH, AND JEAN-PAUL SARTRE T.H. ADAMOWSKI Furthermore it is one of the trends of contemporary philosophy to see in human consciousness a sort of escape from the self... Sartre, Being and Nothingness In the years that have followed the publication of Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization there have appeared a number of efforts to call into question the prevailing models of W estern character structure. Life as a bourgeois death, the long shadow of a 'Protestant ethic' fallen across the Western ego, the inevitable discontent that is the price of civilization these and other unsettling visions of our 'destiny' have been challenged by such new metaphors as those of 'Orpheus and Narcissus,' 'Dionysian consciousness,' and androgyny. The struggle against received notions of character that was taken up by Marcuse and Norman O. Brown has in recent years been continued, at a more popular level, in such works as Theodore Roszak's The Making of a Counter Culture, Charles Reich's The Greening of America, and Philip Slater's The Pursuit of Loneliness. In Paul Robinson (The Freudian Left) and Richard King (The Party of Eros), this 'movement' has spawned its historians, who trace its development out of early Freudian radicalism. Except for Philip Rieff's The Triumph of the Therapeutic there has been relatively little concern during this period, among writers concerned with the nature of character, with the work of D.H. Lawrence. Nevertheless , Lawrence's life-long critique of character is in every way equal in complexity to that of such psychoanalytically influenced critics as Marcuse, Brown, Paul Goodman, and Wilhelm Reich. Lawrence would appear to have paid a price for not having been a Freudian or a social scientist, and there is the danger that his large body of work may become cut off from the world that he hoped to change 'for a thousand years' and become simply of exegetical interest to literary critics. Nor has much attention been addressed to another tradition that has sought to put character in UTQ. Volmne XLIII, Number 4, Summer 1974 312 TJI. ADAMOWSKI question. This is Existentialism and, particularly, the work of Sartre. Where Sartre's presence has been most felt in the councils of the 'counterculture ' and of its academic fellow travellers, it has been due to the influence of that anti-psychiatric critic of the 'false self: R.D. Laing, whose work owes much of its conceptual apparatus to Sartre. What I should like to do here is to consider certain aspects of the thinking of Sartre and Lawrence on character by reference to the work of the first 'Freudian radical: Wilhelm Reich. Reich is, of course, a figure well known to the movement that begins with the broadsides of Brown and Marcuse. His place in the history of Freudian thought has been discussed by Rieff, Robinson, and King. And lately his work has received a distinction of sorts in that a redoubtable publishing venture has proclaimed him a 'modem master' (albeit by throwing him to the analytical sharks whom he once offended).' We should be clear, however, that if there is a 'crisis in our culture: as Lionel Trilling once suggested, it is not only Freud and his disciples (and schismatics) who can help us to understand it. I do not intend to argue that Lawrence and Sartre coincide at all crucial points in their work with the critique offered by Reich - as I shall indicate, there are differences enough between Sartre and Lawrence, and both of them are, of course, much more complex men than Reich. Although I shall deal with certain of the differences among them, I am as much interested in the areas of rapport and in the more general matter of unhappiness with the ideas of norms for character as it is felt outside that psychoanalytic camp from which Reich started On his long pilgrimage to Orgonon, Maine, and the federal penitentiary at LeWisburg, Pennsylvania . Any consideration of the problem of character in the work of Reich and Lawrence must deal with sexuality. In Sartre's thought, however, sexuality has a less prominent place; but it is, all the same, an important...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 311-334
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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