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D. H. Lawrence and the Great War

The Quest for Cultural Regeneration

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Jae-Kyung Koh

This study focuses on the work of D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930). One of the few major English writers to come from an industrial working-class background, Lawrence contributed to the development of all the major literary genres, bringing to them a fresh perspective and a willingness to experiment radically with form. His brief but productive literary career largely coincided with the crisis years of the Great War and its aftermath, and his creative engagement with contemporary events is reflected in a body of work which conveys vividly and powerfully the experience of the time.
Lawrence’s diagnosis of his own time was informed by the radical ideas which arose in the intellectual ferment of the first decades of the twentieth century – ideas about mind and consciousness, relationships and sexuality, community and history. In his fiction, the Great War is set in a long historical perspective, drawing in particular on Nietzsche’s analysis of the origins of European nihilism. This study focuses on Lawrence’s prose fiction and essays in particular, which explore the polymorphous effects – social, political, psychological – of the War. His treatment of the profound forces which have shaped European history and his sense that contemporary conditions are capable of creating sharply contrasting futures point forward to Michel Foucault’s paradoxical vision of historical development.
Contents: Lawrence and the Great War – Destruction and creation – War and its effects – A search for the Dionysian – Cultural dissolution and cultural regeneration – Lawrence and Foucault: the poetics of historical vision – Modern industrialism and the machine principle – The ‘historical’ and the ‘unhistorical’ – Aesthetic ‘Socratism’ – The idea of the Celtic – Modern Western culture and the over-development of consciousness – The emergence of a new post-war order.