Friday, August 31, 2012

Completeness as a Loss

There is a passage in the chapter Man to Man that we did not discuss in class yesterday, but which I thought was extremely interesting and an important theme to the novel.
      "Birkin was looking a Gerald all the time.  He seemed now to see, not the physical, animal man, which he usually saw in Gerald, and which usually he liked so much, but the man himself, complete, and as if fated, doomed, limited. This strange sense of fatality in Gerald, as if he were limited to one form of existence, one knowledge, one activity, a sort of fatal halfness, which to himself seemed wholeness, always overcame Birkin after their moments of passionate approach, and filled him with a sort of contempt, or boredom. It was the insistence on the limitation which so bored Birkin in Gerald. Gerald could never fly away from himself, in realindifferent gaiety."
The idea of being trapped or confined to one state of being is a concern that defines Birkin, and in many ways fuels how he interacts with other characters. His dislike of Hermione for instance, is in part fueled by her refusal to gain knowledge that, while she claims "takes away from experience," Birkin views as allowing one to gain the ability to transcend oneself and truly understand other forms of existence. The central conflict in his relationship with Ursula is his refusal to "love" her as she wants to be love, because he views that love as confining. He wants the relationship to be beyond love with "a final me which is stark and impersonal and beyond responsibility." He can't even be satisfied with one type of love, but rather needs both the love of a woman and a man. He loves the idea of the freedom of death even saying that there is "nothing better." Birkin's infatuation with mortality has led him to believe that life and living confine him. It seems, at least so far, that nothing Birkin does in the novel is final. No decision or action taken by him moves in a forward direction. That is, anything Birkin says or does will not limit him to one state of being. Even his most progressive act in the novel, proposing to Ursula, ends without much of a fight or any real sense of passion. He like, like Gudrun, bases his life in objectivity. Unlike Gudrun, whose objectivity is focused on her external environment however, Birkin is objective towards the self. He hates mankind for its egocentricity, and it is because his detachment of his own ego, that I do not believe he will be able to have love. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Word on Tabloids

At the tail end of class today, Dr. Stuber briefly mentioned the origins of the tabloid.  My iBooks version of our text stats that the term “tabloid” was the proprietary name of medicine sold in tablets.  Now the term reflects the idea of “’concentrated, easily assimilable.’”  I wanted to delve a little further into the use of “tabloids of compressed liberty” from today’s passage.  I found it very interesting that tabloids were described as easily incorporated or conformed.  If this definition is applied to the tabloids of compressed liberty it does fit with Dr. Stuber’s suggestion of a more positive connotation on liberty.  It almost seems to make liberty more accessible, more attainable.  If you think about how easy it is to get your hands on a tabloid should you want one (I’m not sure why you would), it is a far more optimistic way of viewing the “compressed liberty” described in the text.


A couple of our class discussions have touched on the uniqueness of some of the narration that Lawrence employs. I thought I would point to a specific instance in which a narrative technique shows up. On page 67, the narration describes a set of interactions between Gerald and Pussum -- "It was rather delicious, to feel her drawing his self-revelations from him, as from the very innermost dark marrow of this body...He felt, she was compelled to him, she was fated to come into contact with him, must have the seeing him and knowing him." The first question that comes to mind is: who's thoughts are these? Pussum later shows much disinterest in Gerald so why would she be so inconsistent? Although this passage is obviously written in third person, it seems that Gerald's (over)confidence and infatuation are seeping in through the narration via free indirect discourse.  As the passage continues, the narrator makes it a little more obvious that these thoughts are Gerald's. The most important word to note is "felt" because it implies subjectivity. We are able to learn more about Gerald as a character without a conspicuous description or dialogue.

The thing that is particularly unique about Lawrence's narration is not necessarily that he employs free indirect discourse with one character, but that he provides insight all of the time with several of the characters! Although it often comes off as confusing (especially in instances in which the narrator isn't so explicit about the subjectivity), it is a very important bridge to better understanding these characters' interiority.

Rupert Birkin's Idea of Love

We didn't really talk about this in class today, but I wanted to. I just can't get over Birkin's idea of love and what transcends it. He says that he wants an immediate bond between himself and a woman- a bond that forces them to walk in one direction, only one, and leave out the others. He says that it is freedom, but irrevocable, and it's like balancing two stars. He tells Ursula that his idea is not love, it's something more than that. Is that even true though? Society tells us that true love is the strongest bond between two persons and it is everlasting. To me, Birkin is describing true love in this passage. And then he tells Ursula what love is not- it is not something to feed one's ego or a process of subservience.

I suppose that in the beginning, when I read this passage, I thought that Birkin just had to completely wrong idea. I thought that he was taking out the romance in love and putting in a sort of bondage. After reading more of the book and understanding the society they live in better, I see it is Ursula who wishes bondage. She wants love and marriage for societal reasons, for logical reasons. I also believe that she just wants someone to love her. She pleads with Birkin for him to say that he loves her, but she doesn't say it back or care if he even means it. She and the rest of her society warped love into exactly what Birkin describes- a way to serve themselves, to make themselves more important. Birkin is actually the one who has it right by today's standards when he wants a mystical and natural connection to someone. Something more than the society's definition of love.

Birkin and Gerald's Relationship as seen in "Man to Man"

I found myself particularly intrigued by Birkin in Lawrence's chapter, "Man to Man." The reader has seen Birkin unable to commit to Ursula in a traditional sense. He hates the concept of "love." Lawrence even writes, "But he would rather not live than accept the love she proffered. The old way of love seemed a dreadful bondage..." (199). He is entirely internally conflicted on the matter and has attempted to convince her of something beyond love (whatever that may mean).

However, when Birkin speaks to Gerald, he suddenly breaks down in a manner that it seems a man ordinarily would do with a woman (Ursula in this case). Birkin says, "But we ought to swear to love each other, you and I, implicitly and perfectly, finally, without any possibility of going back on" (206-7). This is what Ursula longs to hear Birkin say to her, and yet he's actually using the word "love" with his friend, Gerald. Is there a hint of homosexuality here? What is the difference between his "love" for Gerald and for Ursula?  Birkin continues to plead with Gerald to be true to one another. He pours his heart out as he has never really done with Ursula. He more so seems to argue with Ursula on all of these concepts.

Yet as soon as Gerald responds to Birkin somewhat coldly, Birkin attempts to back out of his statement: "You must tell me what you think, later. You know what I mean? not sloppy emotionalism. An impersonal union that leaves one free" (207). This sounds more like his tone with Ursula. What's going on here? Is his love for Gerald stronger than his love for Ursula? Does it seem homosexual? What void is Birkin attempting to fill?

I'd like to point out one more thing-- at the end of "Man to Man," Birkin refers to Gerald as a "black-clothed form" (210), which is a strange contrast to the multiple other times in the novel when he, along with other characters (Gudrun), are referred to as "white forms." I can't say at the moment what exactly this implies-- just making some simple observations.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

“It is a process of pride" How will this "machine" end?

 As I continue to read more about Gerald’s quest for the “fulfillment of his own will in the struggle with the natural conditions”(pg. 224), I reflect on the literal use of the word “machine” as well as the more structural “mechanical” tendencies that the text has taken on as whole: “they sounded also like strange machines, heavy, oiled…the voluptuousness was like that of machinery, cold and iron” (115). The repetitive use of the words “machine” and “voluptuous” earlier in the paragraph used to describe the men, mimics the conformed, monotonous mentality of machines, processes, and various other processes workers perhaps partake in in coal mines. Moreover, the repetition of words or phrases such as “he”, “she”, “but” and “seemed to become” (pg 130-131) that permeate the novel, paired with the character’s constant flux toward and away from external and introspective debates similarly acquire a very automatic and predictable feel. Almost circular and never-ending. For many of the characters, this may be the point; to live a life where nothing is fixed. Aren’t machines also in a state of flux-always changing, moving, organizing, and re-organizing to produce an item or product of some sort? And in this constant state of transience they are, in a sense, remaining the same in the fact that they are always moving unless turned off or thwarted. In this sense, I find it impossible not to compare the the character’s overall desire to be fulfilled or not be fulfilled, finding or not finding a counterpart to a process similar to a machine.
Even though Gerald and Burkin’s conversation at once seems to suggest the union between man and women and the seeming responsibility to reproduce as sort of death, isn’t some kind of end required for some sort of reflection/examination? They will have to complete themselves to have existed at all right? It seems like this constant shift or as stated in class, “zigzag” in thought and dialogue is an attempt to immortalize oneself as one in a state of constant flux. I am wondering if it is possible for any kind of resolution or climax other than a physical death? If everyone fears what is means to be complete or finished, what can be said about the completion of this novel? What are we supposed to gain from the text other than the projections of the characters various epiphanies or non-epiphanies? I realize these questions are entirely too vague and general, with little textual support but I found this section of the reading to be enthralling and after, Man to Man and The Industrial Magnate I am anxious and obsessed to learn the books fate. And while cheesy and maybe momentary, I have initiated an introspective debate of my own while toiling with the idea of a life free of an ending point or state of completion. I am just as guilty as the character’s in the book constantly learning and changing. It’s difficult to envision life beyond college when right now we are striving for an end? I detect an obvious shift after Diana's death but the repetitiveness seems to have merely escaped to a larger scale. I guess I will just have to wait and read.

Emerging Character

I feel that by the end of Water Party we have a much better picture of our protagonists. Birkin and Ursula are slowly building their own private world in isolation, while Gerald and Gudrun are becoming more and more concerned with their place within society and their responsibilities. Both of these developments are plainly stated at the end of water party but are also supported by the manner in which the characters act in the chapter.
            Ursula and Birkin stoically discuss the idea that death is meaningless, and for some people would be an improvement over their current lives. This is in line with Birkin's early bouts of philosophy. The rather insensitive discussion and Ursula’s disconcert with the event latter shows pulling away the pair is beginning to do. Still, they are not independent from passions for each other.
            Gerald and Gudrun appear much more in tune with the other people. Gerald's position of responsibility for the water activates (in a chapter titled Water Party none the less) plants him firmly in the social world. Gudrun's more commonplace and emotional response to the drowning (or was it murder???) also shows her character as one who lives in the world.
            Earlier, I've had issues with the characters for talking big but doing little. The character's actions in response to a significant event offered a clear place for all four to demonstrate their characteristics not just in speech but in action as well. 

Hatred towards others?

First off, sorry. I know this post is late. I didn't realize until today that I hadn't actually joined the blog yet.
It struck me as interesting how many characters in the book seem to care so little for one another. For example, on page 13 we see the two sisters going out to look at the wedding. Shortly after they begin their walk, Gudrun begins to become deeply uncomfortable with the people around her, begging her sister to let them go back because she says, "there are all those people" (12). Then on page 13, a commoner calls to Gudrun, "What price the stockings!" This highly offends Gudrun, who is described as being violent and murderous. She wanted to have all the commoners annihilated. Simply because someone commented on the price of her obviously gaudy clothes. On page 24, it is Birkin who is seen displaying general dislike of others when he says, "I myself can never see why one should take account of people, just because they happen to be in the room with one. Why should I know they are there?" He seems to be suggesting that anyone he doesn't know (and we later find out many of the people he does know) is inferior to him, not even worth his acknowledgment of their existence. I guess the point I am trying to make is that these characters seem to somehow "get away" with saying these outrages things about other people and everyone else acts as though they are completely normal.


I found myself very troubled by the argument Birkin presents Ursula when she comes to have tea with him.  I do not really understand what he is trying to explain to her.  There seems to be a connection between his earlier experience in the grass.  I say this because he asks Ursula if they could be together by ceasing “to be (147).” When he was naked in the grass Birkin was presumably feeling this separation of self that he is asking Ursula to now experience with him. I am not sure if this is exactly what he is asking of her because his delivery is confusingly cold.  

Death, Life and Love

There was definitely a lot of death and talk about death in the section that we read today. Obviously, there was the death of Diana Crich and Doctor Brindell. And then there was a lot of contemplating about the usefulness of death and how life relates to it, as seen in the conversation between Ursula and Birkin:
 “Death is all right – nothing better.”
“Yet you don’t want to die”, she challenged him …
“I should like to be through with the death process.”
 “And aren’t you?” asked Ursula nervously …
“There is life which belongs to death, and there is life which isn’t death. One is tired of the life that belongs to death – our kind of life. But whether it is finished, God knows. I want love that is like sleep, like being born again, vulnerable as a baby that just comes into the world.” (Chapter XIV, Water Party)
I thought this whole conversation was really interesting. It declares that there is a kind of love that is like a brand new life, and there are also two different kinds of life (one with, one without death). What does this mean? Which kind of life is better, the kind which they are living, or the kind they aren’t? Why is love defined as being like being born, “vulnerable as a baby that just comes into the world”? (I can’t help but get an idea of the tabula rasa as a definition of love). I know this was kind of a scattered post with a lot of questions, but I think love vs life vs death in the terms of all of the different relationships in Women in Love would be an interesting topic to tackle in class.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fluid medium, fixed form: Gudrun and Gerald's strive for completion

We’ve talked a lot about the fluidity of perspective, of the chameleon quality of Berkin, and of the “decentralization” of both Berkin and Hermione.  I’m going to depart from this notion of the fluidity of narrative and self to examine more closely the relationship between Gudrun and Gerald.  Both these characters seem interested in completing and “fixing” things—which contrasts with the continually changing and evolving notion of self that Berkin and (I would argue) Ursula demonstrate.  At the beginning of the novel, Gudrun watches people with “objective curiosity,” and sees them as “subjects in a picture” . . . as a “finished creation.”  “She loved to recognize their various characteristics, to place them in their true light . . . settle them forever . . . She knew them, they were finished, sealed and stamped and finished with, for her” (8).  This finality of language indicates Gudrun’s fixation on completion.  Even though Gudrun yearns for the “fluidity [of the water]” (46) when she sees Gerald swimming, she claims she cannot attain such a desire due to her gender (47).   Unable to realize this desire, Gudrun instead becomes associated with the rigidity of the plants (in her sketching—pg. 111) that grow in the fluid medium whose very form she desires.  Whereas Berkin uses art to understand the world around him—Gudrun exhibits her control through her artistic expression. 
            Gerald expresses similar goals of production and completion during his conversation with Berkin on the train—claiming that he live[s] “to work, to produce something” (46).  Associated with the material and the mechanistic, Gerald was “bound to strive to come up to her [Gudrun’s] criterion, fulfill her idea of a man and a human being” (95).  This conflation of idea/fulfillment (intangible) with “criterion” (something fixed and goal-oriented) indicates that Gerald’s way of seeking the intangible is through tangible means (having a criterion/method to guide him).  Thus, in “Sketchbook,” when their “bond was established” (finality of language) over water (a fluid medium), Gerald and Gudrun demonstrate that the outward manifestation of their relationship is one of control (Gudrun puts Gerald in his place—“their was a body of cold power in her . . . [her spirit] was finished” just as Gerald exerted control over the mare).  However, the image of the surrounding water over which this bond is established illustrates the possibility of fluidity (maybe just in their subconscious desires—ie: class fluidity—they traverse these societal boundaries in the subconscious realm). 

Note:  I have a different edition . . . add 7-8 to each page number for the edition on the syllabus. =) 

wedding and class

I kept thinking about the significance of having a wedding occur at the beginning of the novel, and why it occurred then in the specific manner that it did.  First, I feel that it helped serve the purpose of setting up the setting, if you will, by explaining what the surroundings of the Brangwen sisters looks like.  The problem with this explanation is that the wedding has no important part in it; really the sisters could have just gone on a walk to have the setting introduced.  One slightly significant aspect of the wedding is that it put a halt to an argument about marriage and children, which is fairly ironic.  I believe that the most significant aspect of the wedding though deals with outlining the different classes in the novel.  We get descriptions of the wealthy Crich family entering the church to attend the important wedding from Ursula and Gudrun who are sitting up on a hill - clearly not invited to the wedding.  The lower of the two represented classes is up on the hill observing the upper class.
Class is not an issue that is brought forth as blatantly in the novel, but it is certainly present (like when the sisters are excited that they have been invited to Hermione's house, and later on when the Crich family invites the staff of the Grammar School to their party and other lower classes are seen up on the hill watching the guests p. 157-158).

The Lotus Mystery

In response to our discussion in class today about perspective fluidity, I'd like to structure this post around a close(ish)-reading of the passage on pg 89 that specifically foregrounds a similar kind of decentralization.
As Birkin copies out a Chinese drawing of some geese, Hermione comes into the room and asks him to explain why he doesn't produce something original. Birkin answers that he wants “to know what centers they [the geese, presumably, not the Chinese] live from.” In a certain sense, Birkin replicates the work of his novelist, draining the self, as it were, and projecting into “the hot, stinging centrality of a goose”--just as Lawrence projects into the centralities of his fictional characters. Here “centrality” feels synonymous with perspective, a point at which one frames and interprets reality. (The reader will recall this specifically “stinging” centrality when Birkin, naked and unconscious, “saturates himself” in “soft-sharp needles” on pg 107). “Hot” seems about as connotatively ambiguous as every moiety in Lawrence's binary network, but here we get a sense of intensity and vigor, of pumping blood and beating wings. This heat contrasts sharply and immediately with the “flux of cold water and mud,” a distinction later collapsed into “cold-burning mud,” where the hyphen ropes together two opposite sensations of swanliness into one; a reconciliation of seeming contradictions. Thus Birkin, in is his characteristically chameleonic way (detailed on pg 91), lives through a multiplicity of perspectives, searching perhaps for a more consummate experience of decentralization in unconscious being, which arguably occurs on pg 107. Would this be manifest in a similar collapse? Soft-sharp perhaps?
Fittingly, Lawrence gives Hermione's perspective relatively (pun intended) equal footing. Though "almost unconscious" when she enters the room, she finds herself “unable to attend to his [Birkin's] words.” Her "almost" finds fulfillment in total “dissolution,” as Lawrence repeatedly calls it, as if “destroyed with some insidious occult potency.” So Birkin and Hermione ultimately experience the same decentralization, but their interpretations of the radical other to knowledge yield differing shades of connotation. Hermione, desperate always to remain in control, encounters her ego-death with fear, “like one attacked by tomb-influences,” while Birkin actively seeks the animal sensuality of that same unconsciousness. Enter the final duality: life/death.

Where's the sex?!

I hope the title caught your attention, hehe.

First of all, let me address my horrible English mishap earlier with the misuse of the term pandering. That is obviously not the word I was supposed to use in that context, and I made myself look a little silly. My bad.

I'll try and make up for it here with this first blog post of mine.

I feel like the topic of sex and sexuality was left out of our discussion in class today, so I hope I can spark a little bit more of an in-depth conversation on here. There is obviously mention of it in "Class-room," which we touched on today, but I feel there are several other rather sexually charged passages we've encountered (and I am certain they won't be the last.) First and foremost, the passage in which Hermione decides to "biff" Birkin describes the experience as a rather erotic one: "A terrible voluptuous thrill ran down her arms -- she was going to know her voluptuous consummation. Her arms quivered and were strong, immeasurably and irresistibly strong. What delight, what delight in strength, what delirium of pleasure! She was going to have her consummation of voluptuous ecstasy at last. It was coming! In utmost terror and agony, she knew it was upon her now, in extremity of bliss. Her hand closed on a blue, beautiful ball of lapis lazuli that stood on her desk for a paper-weight. She rolled it round in her hand as she rose silently. Her heart was a pure flame in her breast, she was purely unconscious in ecstasy. She moved towards him and stood behind him for a moment in ecstasy." (105.) Hermione seems to be having an almost orgasmic experience in the moment she almost obtains her freedom from Birkin.

The other passage I am referring to is actually one we discussed in class today, in the chapter "Coal-Dust": "A sharpened look came on Gerald's face. He bit himself down on the mare like a keen edge biting home, and forced her round. She roared as she breathed, her nostrils were two wide, hot holes, her mouth was apart, her eyes frenzied. It was a repulsive sight. But he held on her unrelaxed, with an almost mechanical relentlessness, keen as a sword pressing in to her. Both man and horse were sweating with violence. Yet he seemed calm as a ray of cold sunshine." (111.) Now obviously, this second passage is a lot more brutal and implies a sort of rape of the mare, but I was wondering why no one else commented on the very obvious--at least in my opinion--sexual imagery going on in this passage. Or it may be possible that I just have a dirty mind.

Thoughts, anyone? (On my discussion post, not on whether or not my mind is in the gutter or elsewhere...)

Control in Perspective

Today in class, we briefly discussed the desire of characters to control in Women in Love. Hermione wants to control Birkin, Gerald feels control over The Pussum, The Pussum feels some level of control over Gerald, and on page 122, even Gudrun admits her control over Gerald. It is a specific kind of control, one that is highly-sexualized and always attached to one form or another of romance.

I'm fascinated by how the not-actually-but-sort-of omniscient perspective plays into these power dynamics. At first, it seems that Gerald has complete control over The Pussum because, his perspective assures us, he is just that hot (64). His control is a cruel domination, of master and slave (67). He enjoys his control of the situation, which he believes he could terminate whenever he wants. Then the narrator moves into The Pussum's mind and we realize she is playing her own game. She even describes it like a political strategy: "Her alliance for the time was with Gerald, and she did not know how far this was admitted by any of the men. She was considering how she should carry off the situation" (74). Just because she is not asserting her control so aggressively - I guess we could call it her "feminine wiles" - she still retains her free will to sleep with Gerald or not to.

This is what I'm wondering in short: why does Lawrence want the reader to see both perspectives? What does it reveal about relationships that he wants the reader to discover?

Gerald and the Death Drive

Something curious that I have seen in a recurring and distributed (i.e., by several characters, independently) way is diagnosis of things wrong with Gerald. Gerald's rather frightening mother exclames on pp 25 to Birkin "Gerald! He's the most wanting of them all. You'd never think it, to look at him now, would you?" This interior want or lack becomes as the book proceeds a description of the hollowness of Gerald, or corelessness. On pp. 72, Gerald's sense of power and domination over Pussum is described thus: "He held her in the hollow of his will, and she was soft, secret, and invisible in her stirring there." It is almost as if Pussum is something he needs to fill himself, to keep from imploding, his very will is hollow; as Birkin asks him earlier, pointedly, "wherein does life centre, for you?" [pp58], which Gerald cannot answer -- unlike Birkin, who also cannot answer, he seems unsure he will try to find a centre, like Birkin's "ultimate marriage." In addition, Gerald, despite his vigor, muscularity, and all-around manly powers, is invariably described in terms of coldness, snow, ice, wolf, and cool blue. This has the effect on me of making Gerald seem not-quite-alive.

On pp. 33, Birkin first claims "...[A] man who is murderable is a man who in a profound if hidden lust desires to be murdered," to which Gerald scoffs. Birkin continues, crucially, that "You seem to have a lurking desire to have your gizzard slit...", an identification of a powerful thanatotic urge within Gerald. I wonder how we could connect this to Ursula's (with Birkin, the two most narratively-favored characters) contention to an unconvinced Gudrun that "this playing at killing has some primitive desire for killing in it..." Ursula doesn't accept that Gerald killing his brother was an accident, saying "I couldn't pull the trigger of the emptiest gun in the world, not if someone were looking down the barrel." [pp49].

Monday, August 27, 2012

"...but the worst and last form of intellectualism"

Class-room! What an adrenaline rush. Lawrence bombarded me most suddenly with this mess of a philosophical debate, and it is hard not to get carried away from the novel itself and discuss the well-worn and ever-sore debate that Hermione and Birkin take up--Hermione's claim to desire the destruction of self-consciousness appears so much the mosaic reverberation of Schopenhauer's enthusiasm toward Eastern religions, or maybe Dostoevsky's underground man, who mockingly and deploringly praises the "man of action"as he laments his own acute consciousness. But Birkin is the touchstone to the novel's literary revelations and the truth behind the philosophical mud that Hermione attempts to disguise as romanticism, and he reveals the sadness and inauthenticity of Hermione's proclaimed role as the "free woman," telling her: "now that you have come to all your conclusions, you want to go back and be like a savage, without knowledge. You want a life of pure sensation and 'passion.'" For all her claims (and here I agree with Birkin, who somehow warms me with his cold dismissal of those around him), Hermione speaks from intellectual conceit; she espouses a dreary, anti-humanitarian doctrine that, though she desires it to be taken as wild, savage, and romantic, Birkin recognizes as the epitomical conclusions of pessimistic intellectualism. Thus is her heavy, fair hair the physical representation of her heavy veneer of grace and superiority, hiding her despair over the emptiness, the reoccuring theme of nothingness, that denies her right to happiness and seemingly to love.

Though, let me say in a lack of conclusion, that I do not mean to squash Hermione fully; her feminine condition so far seems to me the most challenging and interesting. But more on that later, perhaps.


The novel takes an interesting approach to the various romantic relationships of the characters. There is an intimacy between Birkin and Gerald which, despite their disapproval of romantic relationships between two men, shows strongly; Gerald and Birkin often observe each other and take pleasure in talking to each other. Contrasting the good and all-but-romantic relationship between the two men are many of the heterosexual relationships. Most of the heterosexual relationships so far are shown in a negative light; Birkin and Hermione are in an unhappy marriage, and the connection between Gerald and Pussum is short-lived, impersonal, and selfish on both their ends. It will be interesting to see where the book takes the relationships between Birkin, Gerald, Ursula, and Gedrun.

Masculinity and Relationships

As Jessica pointed out earlier, although society at this time believes women should find a husband and settle down and have a family, the sisters seem to rebel against this norm. Even though Lawrence takes on a more feminist stance in his female characters, the male still cling gender roles. Evidence for this is seen in the relationship between Birkin and Gerald. The two often have heated debates where it seems they despise each other. At the end of Shortlands, Lawrence describes their relationship differently in the last paragraph that their hearts burned from the other and with each other. The thing keeping them apart was only their belief that men should not have deep relationships with other men. Lawrence keeps his male characters closer to gender expectations than his female characters. I wonder if this means he saw something wrong with expectations placed on women, but not on men.


The most interesting aspect of Lawrence’s Women in Love thus far for me has been the severity and range of emotional interaction between characters. Hermione and Birkin offer the most obvious example of this phenomenon; though they have been lovers for years, both characters alternate between spite and cordiality almost too rapidly to follow. Birkin and Crich’s encounter on the train to London in “In the Train” contains the same sort of back-and-forth. While consistently being described as friends over the course of the story (and specifically within the chapter), Edmund openly articulates his momentary hatred of Gerald in middle of a heated conversation. This slight is swiftly forgotten, but it returns later in the novel. Even Ursula and Gudrun experience these quick movements between temporary hatred and sisterly affection. The levels of complexity that exist in the relationships between Lawrence’s characters is what makes this novel most compelling.

Feminine Items

     This novel opens with a very different outlook on female sexuality than I am used to. Gudrun and Ursula give the impression that marriage and children are the social ideals that represent the next step in life especially for women. Neither of them necessarily sees this as true. Love is an acceptable goal, and lovers are also admirable things, but marriage is portrayed as the ending of all things rather than a beginning or a progression. I find this to be a more modern representation of female desires. More and more women are planning careers and putting off having families. This is not to say that they do not want husbands or children, but that they are more open to the possibility that settling down is not necessarily the next step in life. Having marriage be the end of experience is a rather stark look at life and the roles that women play in society.

Creme de Menthe and Totem and Bizarre Sexuality

Creme de Menthe and Totem contain repeated references to the darkness or evil of sexuality. There is at least one description of of Minette's eyes as containing "knowledge of evil" and there attraction is further described as "dark." These descriptions seem to be a facet of Gerald's frankly twisted views on sexuality, since the narration more or less remains in his head until the very end of Totem. Gerald's descriptions of their interactions tend to set up the experience of sexual attractions in terms of predator and prey. He feels himself in utter control over her and as though he has license to use her (though she seems to be the one using him). The utterly bizarre way in which he seems to process sexuality is counter-pointing by his reaction to the carving in Totem, which he seems to dislike because of its "barbaric" nature and his own desire to maintain certain illusions. In this we have a character who may want to maintain the social distrust of sexuality because it reaffirms his own darkness. After all, if society says a thing is twisted, then one's own twisted view on the subject should be perfectly normal.

That last bit may be a bit of a stretch but frankly, the more about Gerald I read the more he sounds like an all-around bastard.

Another thing worth noting. I'm really not sure if Lawrence is trying to satirize erotica or whether modern erotica (including the horror that is internet fan-fiction). The novel seems to ignore the convention of remaining in a single character's head, instead choosing to seamlessly move between internal monologues. The fact that in Creme de Menthe and Totem he seems to hold exclusively to one character's point of view until the last few paragraphs seems a deviation from his usual style. The fact that Birkin seems to spend both of these chapters sick seems an attempt to high-light the pretensions of the characters in these chapters. He only really seems to come back to life (so to speak) while discussing the totem that Gerald so dislikes.

General First Post

One of the things I liked best about the Virginia Woolf story "The Mark on the Wall" was the play on the world "generalizations" on page 41. She quickly puns this with "general" to recall the military, first-page articles in newspapers of note, and government officials (all masculine-valued things) before launching into a discussion of how generalities are the real thing when we first learn to call things by name (e.g., this is a Dog, the name Dog somehow holding more power than all the particularities of the canine itself). Generalizations morph in this diatribe to social rules, customs, and ideologies (what one perceives as normal without being aware that this is uncertain), and then become connected somehow to a masculine authority that was eroded -- alongside the truth(fulness) of those "generalizations" -- "since the war...". So, this connection of ideologies or truths exposed as hollow and wanting to "Whitaker's Table of Precedency" and "the masculine point of view" performs an explicit and crucial role in the broader feminist critique that the class read from this work last time. Still, what replaces "those real standard things" exposed as phantoms, is, for women, "Men perhaps...". I like to think that this relates to DHL's character Birkin, for whom we can already see, a special (unique, even) relationship between a man and a woman is a burning goal. I open the floor, out of ideas, go.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Welcome experimenters! This semester we’ll be using this blog to develop our responses to the course reading. You’ll be blogging at least once a week, either the day before or the day of class. I’ll make a schedule so you’ll know when you need to post. The writing you do here doesn’t need to be as formal or as polished as the writing you’ll be doing for your papers. But it should still be thoughtful. The blog is a way to try out ideas—and to develop the ideas of others. What should you write about?  Discuss compelling or puzzling textual moments. Report on a pattern, theme, or repeated rhetorical device.  Expand on the ideas presented by someone else. Post links to relevant materials (videos, images, webpages, what have you).

We’ll begin with Virginia Woolf’s story “The Mark on the Wall.” No one is required to post this week, but I encourage you to get your feet wet and begin the conversation.