D. H. Lawrence: The New Man as Prophet

  • Declan Kiberd


‘To begin with, what is the sex of D. H. Lawrence?’,1 asked one of the earliest reviewers of The White Peacock. Lawrence’s first novel baffled readers by its intimate analysis of the heroine, in a narrative which is nevertheless written from a persuasively male point of view. For Lawrence, androgyny was not just a theme, but also a crucial part of his narrative method. ‘I think the only re-sourcing of art, revivifying it, is to make it more the joint work of man and woman’, he wrote, ‘I think the one thing to do, is for men to have courage to draw nearer to women, expose themselves to them, and be altered by them: and for women to accept and admit men.’2 This bold experiment has not been universally admired. Many critics will never forgive Lawrence for what often seems like a redeployment of the clichés of the women’s magazine. All too often his characters look for something soft and warm and dark, or resort to such timeless ecstasies as the trance or swoon, swamped by the mandatory flood of adjectives. Moreover, the narrative lingers more often and more lovingly on privileged female glimpses of the male loins and buttocks than it does on the female form, to the outrage of one lady reader who complained that whereas Lawrence’s men (usually) have legs, his women have only stockings.3


Modern Literature Ulterior Motive Break Fragment Female Element Masculine Power 


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Notes and References

  1. 44.
    Frank Kermode, Lawrence (Fontana Modern Masters, London, 1973) p. 74.Google Scholar

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© Declan Kiberd 1985

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  • Declan Kiberd

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