Saturday, March 6, 2010

D.H. Lawrence's War

Rereading D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love, I am struck by how forcefully anti-philosophical it is. I find this refreshing of course, since too much philosophy can make the mind go limp by abstracting itself and its surroundings too much. Lawrence is a creature of exquisite and daring passion, and his critique of modern British society as largely artificial and spiritually bereft may very well have been accurate. His solution is not just a frontal assault on industrialism and over-refinement; it is a war on bourgeois culture itself. Lawrence, through the character of Rupert Birkin, makes the case for a sensualism that defies what many would likely deem to be decadent. What makes Lawrence so radical, in part, is his exaltation of sensualism as a response to the decadence of self-satisfied, impotent intellectualism, as well as bourgeois, Romantic naivete. What makes Lawrence's work profoundly anti-philosophical is its assault on such concepts as "knowledge" and the "self." Rather than wading into the murky waters of definition of these abstractions, he dismisses them in favor of self-abandonment. Through this, he casts knowledge and the self in vital rather than abstract terms by allowing their ebb and flow without detaining them for interrogation.

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