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    Reading the nonhuman in D.H. Lawrence's 'Studies in Classic American Literature' and 'Women in Love'

    Acton, Harry (2019) Reading the nonhuman in D.H. Lawrence's 'Studies in Classic American Literature' and 'Women in Love'. The D. H. Lawrence Review 44 (2), pp. 88-109. ISSN 0011-4936.

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    Lawrence’s later critical writings are notably concerned with art’s potential to evoke a direct relation to the nonhuman world, and thus themselves deserve close attention in the growing debate on the ecological dimension of his work. I argue here that Studies in Classic American Literature (1918-1923), which contains Lawrence’s most extended writing on representations of nature, develops a sophisticated account of literature’s capacity to convey a radical, embodied responsiveness to nonhuman beings. This account is drawn to textual fracture and inadequacy as much as representational success: Lawrence attacks American authors’ distorting Romantic visions of “Nature-sweet-and-pure,” while his more positive responses often centre on moments of ambiguity or anomaly which tend, in turn, to upset his own interpretive categories (34). Lawrence’s labile critical reactions in Studies, I suggest, foreground ways in which texts by Crèvecoeur, Melville, Fenimore Cooper and others disrupt familiar conceptual distinctions between humans and other material beings, evoking thereby a more embodied awareness of nonhumans. I further argue that Lawrence’s sensitivity to textual instability in American nature writing is closely related to his particular sociocultural stance as a reader. Lawrence’s irreverent eye for these texts’ faultlines and contradictions is fostered by his awareness of their uncertain valuation in the British literary culture of the period, and this is especially evident in his dialogue with their framings in the Everyman series in which he read most of them in 1916-17. Lawrence’s critical responses in Studies thus cast new light on ways in which his later modernist aesthetics, both critical and creative, approach nonhumans more widely, while also suggesting the informing role, within that engagement, of a situated readerly relation with American texts.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Research Centres and Institutes: Birkbeck Sport Business Centre
    Depositing User: Harry ACTON
    Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2022 11:32
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:54


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