biography, guidance notes, and literary criticism
D.H.Lawrence is not an easy writer to categorise. We think of him mainly as a novelist – but he is equally influential (if not so highly regarded) as a poet and a writer of novellas and short stories. He also wrote plays, but these tend to be overlooked in favour of his fiction. This guide to his work comes from a new series by Routledge which offers comprehensive but single-volume introductions to major English writers. They are aimed at students of literature, but are accessible to general readers who might like to deepen their understanding. The approach taken could not be more straightforward.
Part one is a potted biography of Lawrence, placing his life and work in a relatively neutral socio-historical context. Thus we get his early influences and his complex relations with women; but we are also nursed through an introduction to the literary Modernist movement of which he formed an important part. Part two provides a synoptic view of Lawrence’s stories, novels, and poetry.
The works are described in outline, and then their main themes illuminated. This is followed by pointers towards the main critical writings on these texts and issues.
Part three deals with criticism of Lawrence’s work. This is presented in chronological order – from contemporaries such as T.S. Eliot and E.M. Forster to critics of the present day who tend to focus on Lawrence’s psychological insights. Feminist writers have been particularly critical of what they see as misogyny in Lawrence’s work. .
The book ends with a commendably thorough bibliography which covers biography, criticism in books and articles, plus pointers towards specialist Lawrence journals.
An excellent starting point for students who are new to Lawrence’s work – and a refresher course for those who would like to keep up to date with criticism.
© Roy Johnson 2003
Fiona Becket, The Complete Critical Guide to D. H. Lawrence, London: Routledge, 2002, pp.186, ISBN 0415202523
More on D.H. Lawrence
More on the novella
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