D. H. Lawrence

James Moran

in British and Irish Literature

ISBN: 9780199846719
Published online August 2015 | | DOI:
D. H. Lawrence

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D. H. Lawrence (b. 1885–d. 1930) was born, the fourth of five siblings, in the small mining town of Eastwood, near Nottingham. His father was a collier, who worked a twelve-hour day from the age of seven. Yet from this unlikely background, Lawrence went on to become one of the best-known writers in the English language. The texts that have generally been regarded as his greatest achievements are the novels Sons and Lovers (1913), The Rainbow (1915), and Women in Love (1920), which all draw on his upbringing in the English Midlands. This background also informs his last novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928), which has received much interest because of its explicit depictions of sex. An openly published, unexpurgated copy of the text was published in Britain only in 1960, and it was the subject of a celebrated trial under the country’s obscenity law, with the cultural significance of that moment being famously described by Philip Larkin in his poem “Annus Mirabilis,” which describes how sexual intercourse began “Between the end of the Chatterley ban/ And the Beatles’ first LP.” The Chatterley trial came shortly after F. R. Leavis published D. H. Lawrence: Novelist (1955), which showed how Lawrence’s writings merited serious critical attention and asserted that Lawrence could be considered a deeply moral author. Much subsequent analysis has focused on Lawrence’s novels and short stories, but publication of his complete works and letters by Cambridge University Press between 1979 and 2013 has increasingly drawn attention to Lawrence’s skilled writing in other forms, notably his poetry, plays, essays, and personal correspondence. Nonetheless, Lawrence has scarcely been without detractors. He has been a target for feminist criticism since Kate Millett published her 1970 book Sexual Politics; and the “leadership novels” that Lawrence published in the 1920s have led a number of critics to attack Lawrence as a fascist. Nonetheless, Lawrence has continued to be a subject of considerable academic and popular interest, and the reading list of primary and secondary texts can appear daunting. As Denis Donoghue states, “One of the risks incurred by a reader who takes an interest in Lawrence is that such an interest is likely to become omnivorous. It is hardly possible to place The Rainbow and Women in Love in the centre of that interest without engrossing, as one moves toward the circumference, pretty nearly everything else in the canon” (Donoghue, “‘Till the Fight Is Finished’: D. H. Lawrence in His Letters,” in Spender 1973 (p. 197, cited under Poetry).

Article.  13150 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (British and Irish)

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