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5.0 out of 5 stars Instincts, society and art, 18 July 2010
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Oxford World's Classics: Selected Critical Writings (Paperback)
In these impressive essays, D.H. Lawrence explains masterfully his vision on sex, society and art. His criticism throws a sharp light on American and English novelists, on the painter Paul Cézanne and his own masterpieces.

Syphilis, society, Puritanism, art
The appearance of syphilis gave a fearful blow to man's sexual life. The illness was at least partly responsible for the rise of Puritanism. As a real horror-terror element, it attacked frontally man's deepest instincts. Man became afraid of his body and came to hate it. He turned into an idea, a social and political entity, a fleshless, cold, dead (without instincts) organism.
In art, vision became more optical, less intuitive. Painting became `physical' again with Paul Cézanne's still-life compositions (apples).

Pornography
Pornography is an attempt to insult the sex instinct, to do dirt on it. For pornographic people, the sex flow and the excrement flow are the same.
The only way to stop the terrible mental problems in sex matters is to come out quite simply and naturally into the open with it.

Art, the novel, poetry, criticism
Lawrence's text, `When Van Gogh paints sunflowers, he achieves the vivid relation between man and the sunflower. His painting does not represent the sunflower itself', is a precursor of R. Magritte's `Ceci n'est pas une pipe'.
For D. H. Lawrence, the novel is the perfect medium for revealing the changing rainbow of our living relationships. It is the book of life and can help us to live.
He has a Schopenhauerian vision on poetry. The essential quality of a poem should be the revelation of a new world within the known world, within the inner and outer chaos.
For criticism, his touchstone is emotion. Art should be judged by its emotional effect.

English literature (Thomas Hardy, John Galsworthy)
Thomas Hardy's main theme is the fight of the individual against the social code (the Law). Those who consider their community as a walled prison and who transgress its social order, die. Those who remain within the accepted conventions are good, safe and happy.
Not one of John Galsworthy's characters seems to be a really vivid human being. They are castrated social beings who follow the social code. For them, love is feeling `a hungry for her', as if she were a beefsteak.

American literature (Walt Whitman, Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville)
Walt Whitman's poetry sings about man's accession into wholeness (Hegel, LR). He is drunk with the strange wine of infinitude, of supreme spiritual consciousness. In his own person he becomes the whole universe. The way to Allness can be attained through endless sympathy (giving oneself), through the love between comrades, through manly love.
For Fenimore Cooper, the social code forbids blood-mixing between the white and the red race. His world is a paradise for killers (`The Deerslayer', `The Last of the Mohicans').
Herman Melville hates the puritan white world and looks for a savage Eden (`Typee'). But, he understands 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 death of the whale represents the suicide of the white man.

These masterful essays are a must read for all lovers of world class criticism and for all D.H. Lawrence fans.
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Oxford World's Classics: Selected Critical Writings
Oxford World's Classics: Selected Critical Writings by D. H Lawrence (Paperback - 1 Oct 1998)
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