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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The essential function of art is moral
In this analysis of (not always) well-known classic US authors D. H. Lawrence gives his personal, but very revealing, view on the heart of the American soul, the old and the new moralities and the cardinal aspects of the gender battle. These brilliant essays tell also a lot about the author himself and the backgrounds of his life vision.

David Herbert...
Published on 23 Jan 2010 by Luc REYNAERT

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3.0 out of 5 stars 'I feel I'm the superior of most men I meet.'
I bought this because I like Lawrence and don't like 'classic American literature' - I hoped the one would explain the other. The opening chapter is a brilliant piece of analysis: Lawrence at his best as he debunks many of the myths about America, so effortlessly that you wonder how they came to be believed in the first place. An inattentive reading, as in some of these...
Published 11 months ago by gille liath


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The essential function of art is moral, 23 Jan 2010
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Studies in Classic American Literature (Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
In this analysis of (not always) well-known classic US authors D. H. Lawrence gives his personal, but very revealing, view on the heart of the American soul, the old and the new moralities and the cardinal aspects of the gender battle. These brilliant essays tell also a lot about the author himself and the backgrounds of his life vision.

David Herbert Lawrence
This world-class author was highly influenced by Nietzsche (rejection of the Christian slave and anti-senses morality, his anti-democratic stance and his misogyny) and Freud (the un- and subconscious).

The old and the new moralities
In the old morality, the `soul' of man stands above the `flesh'. In the new morality, the `soul' `sits in the dark limbs, in the body of the prostitute, in the sick flesh of the syphilitic'.

American soul
`The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer'.
The essential American action is destruction.
The spirit of the place is freedom to lynch anybody who is not one of them (racism).
The labor class is obedient because of the continual influx of more servile Europeans.

American literature
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN `doesn't let me have a soul of my own. He says that I am nothing but a servant of mankind, a galley-slave.' But he was also a destroyer: `Extirpate the savages to make room for the cultivators of the earth.'
HECTOR ST JOHN DE CREVECOEUR (`Letters from an American Farmer') shows that there are no `Sweet Children of Nature. All fraternity and equality go up in smoke and his ideal of pure sweet goodness along with it.'
For FENIMORE COOPER, there can be no blood-mixing between the white and the red race. His world is a paradise for killers (`The Deerslayer', `The Last of the Mohicans').
EDGAR ALLAN POE is fascinated by inquisition, torture and murder. For him, a woman is `a vulture of stern passion'. `Drugs, women, self-destruction are adventurers in the horrible passages of the human soul.'
In NATHANAEL HAWTHORNE's `The Scarlet Letter', the male protagonist is `a spiritual fornicator and a liar'. The female protagonist is the destroyer of the white consciousness, of the old moral, of spiritual love.
DANA's `Two Years before the Mast' depicts the sea as the cosmic enemy, as the great disintegrating force, leaving the human nerves blank.
HERMAN MELVILLE hated the white world and searched for a savage Eden (`Typee'). But, he came to understand that `civilized' people can't go back. `Moby Dick', the white whale, represents `the deepest blood-being of the white race', `that lonely phallic monster of the individual you.' The whale is hunted by our old consciousness. His death is a suicide.
WALT WHITMAN is the first author to break down the old morality. He gives the soul its own life, a life of sympathy. But he misinterprets sympathy as a feeling `for', not as a feeling `with'. His individual self leaked out of him into the universe (`Democracy', `En Masse', `No Identity').

These remarkable interpretations and insights are a must read of all lovers of world and US literature.
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3.0 out of 5 stars 'I feel I'm the superior of most men I meet.', 3 May 2013
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This review is from: Studies in Classic American Literature (Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
I bought this because I like Lawrence and don't like 'classic American literature' - I hoped the one would explain the other. The opening chapter is a brilliant piece of analysis: Lawrence at his best as he debunks many of the myths about America, so effortlessly that you wonder how they came to be believed in the first place. An inattentive reading, as in some of these reviews, could easily result in thinking that it's an anti-American book. And yet, on the contrary, he still seems to believe in America as 'the missing link of the next era'.

Why? I think the clue is in his notion that America is based on the urge to 'get away' from the problems of the Old World. This was one of the deepest and most persistent motives in his own life; America seemed the only place to get away to; so he couldn't help believing in it along with everyone else. To him, at this stage, it represented hope for the future; although he never placed his trust in it entirely, seeing how far the reality fell short of the ideal.

He tells us right away that he wants to 'save the American tale from the American artist'. If one is being cynical, that seems to mean ignoring the actual content of a set of mostly bad books, and making up a lot of stuff that was never there - stuff from his pre-conceived mythology about the evolution of consciousness.Or as he puts it, 'out of a pattern of lies art weaves the truth'. In the same way, with his misanthropy and disbelief in the Rights of Man, he manages to see the essential nature of the country as something quite other than it professes to be. Probably Lawrence was well aware that this stuff was in him, not the books; but it seems highbrow America was quick to take him at his literal word. It was willing to accept a few home truths about externals - which they could take as referring to the hoi-polloi - in exchange for Lawrence's vision of the essential Mystery and destiny of the nation.

The 'stuff' in itself is pretty good. Few people can write about this kind of thing without quickly qualifying themselves for Pseuds' Corner; but somehow, with his cleverness and sheer self-belief, Lawrence compels you to take him seriously. Mostly. And you could claim, of course, that the things he says are implicit in the books; but at that rate, everything is implicit in anything.

So, like many of Lawrence's books, this tells us plenty about the man himself; it also, maybe, tells us something about America. But despite all its fireworks, it tells us very little about classic American literature; and I'm none the wiser about why it repels me. And yet, Lawrence's enthusiasm, chimerical or not, is infectious. I think I might give Fenimore Cooper another go, after all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Never a boring moment, 28 April 2013
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Kerstin Hallert (paris france) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Studies in Classic American Literature (Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
This is D H Lawrence's revealing the American soul from reading the great American classics convinced that
Americans represent an entirely different kind of human - and not a very sympathetic one at that.
Whether you agree with his perspective or not there is not a boring moment in the company of the grandiose outbursts from this roaring anti-American volcano, very different from the inventor of Lady Chatterly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime, 8 April 2013
By 
J. Ledesma "JuanMa" (France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Studies in Classic American Literature (Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
This is one of the master pieces of Lawrence's thought. In this profound analysis of America's history and meaning, Lawrence develops his inner-most intuitions about the fate of man, his destiny and his duty towards life. A must.
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