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Lawrence, D. H. (1885-1930)  
 
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Throughout the fiction, poetry, and even plays (his 1926 David in part depicted the story of the Biblical David's friendship with Jonathan), Lawrence explored homosexual love in both male and female relations.

The Rainbow, for example, includes a character of obvious lesbian inclinations, Winifred Inger, and her emotional hold on Ursula Brangwen, and the novella The Fox explores the intimate friendship between two women as it is shattered by a male intruder to their farm.

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Like Forster and Gide, Lawrence was fascinated by the mystique of sexual relations with working-class men; unlike them, however, he expounded this fascination from the perspective of the working-class artist.

Deeply suspicious of the effects of industrialization--he had himself witnessed it destroy the English landscape and the vestiges of communal culture--Lawrence grew to love primitive civilizations and all he imagined they offered in the way of expansive love.

Although he proselytized on behalf of the unconscious, Lawrence repudiated psychoanalysis's attempt at thoroughly calibrating human sexuality and criticized Freud's project as fomenting mere "sex in the head." Psychoanalysis, he believed, robbed modern man of the dark, mythic power inherent in true eros.

This belief in the mythopoetic value of the darkly erotic led him to stress nonverbalized expressions of homoerotic feeling, often with a violent, primitivist undercurrent. The much-anthologized story "The Prussian Officer" (1914), for example, portrays the masochistic yearning of an officer for the youthful soldier under his command in a tightly wrought narrative containing virtually no dialogue and ending with a dual death in an eerily peaceful forest.

Homosexual Desire in Lawrence's Writings

Lawrence's writing dealing with homosexuality poses unusual problems, for the novelist was highly conflicted in his attitude toward homosexual desire and was, in many ways, a social conservative of a markedly puritan temperament.

Many readers, moreover, have been troubled by Lawrence's glorification of what has been characterized as his misogynistic "cult of the phallus," as well as by the fascistic implications of his philosophy of "blood consciousness." Others have found Lawrence's often febrile, repetitive prose style to be an obstacle to a full appreciation of his work.

In addition, Lawrence's fictional endorsement of homosexual desire is generally represented as existing in conflict with either a fearful sexual domination by women or a repellently effete homosexual coterie. Thus Gudrun and the memorably malevolent bisexual German artist Loerke in Women in Love come to represent a deadly alliance that defeats Gerald in his unrealized love for Birkin.

Lawrence's own experiences with homosexual men were acrimonious; he once claimed that Bloomsbury homosexuals such as the painter Duncan Grant and the economist John Maynard Keynes made him "mad with misery and hostility and rage."

Lawrence, Whitman, and Carpenter

Still, Lawrence's torment over his own homosexual inclinations give his work an extraordinary, unsentimental force that is lacking in the fiction of more inwardly resolved writers of the day and that renders much of the period's homosexual writing restrained by comparison. In rejecting homosexual aestheticism for a more masculine credo and a devotion to savage nature, Lawrence is close in spirit to the English and American writers Edward Carpenter and Walt Whitman.

A great admirer of the American poet, Lawrence claimed to find in Whitman's Calamus poems "one of the clues to a real solution--a new adjustment. I believe in what he calls 'manly love', the real implicit reliance of one man on another ... only it must be deeper, more ultimate than emotion and personality, cool separateness and yet the ultimate reliance."

Women in Love

Women in Love, a masterpiece of modernist fiction, is the novelist's most daring exploration of homosexuality through its hero Birkin's search for a bisexual ethic as a way of transcending what Lawrence considered a crisis in English culture. The twin poles of Birkin's agonized erotic consciousness and his search for "two kinds of love," wedded to the novel's heightened sense of cultural fragmentation, lend Women in Love an exceptional tensile strength and apocalyptic magnitude.

In the novel's preface, Lawrence claimed the catastrophe of the Great War required that men form a bond lest "new life" be "strangled unborn within them." This statement is a more poetic expression of what the novel itself makes implicit and the Prologue rendered emphatic: Heterosexual marriage must acknowledge man's need to have the love of another man or else all will suffer a spiritual death.

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