Masculinities in the novels of D.H. Lawrence: gender difference or transcendence

  • Susan Alice Reid

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

While literary critics have tended to focus on episodes of alleged masculinism or homoeroticism in D.H. Lawrence’s fiction, this thesis examines a greater complexity of masculinities running throughout his novels, manifested in the tension between an insistence on gender difference and a desire to transcend gender altogether. It does this in two principal ways. Firstly, masculinities in the novels are historicized via discussion of the crisis of Victorian masculinities and fin de siècle anxieties about gender. Secondly, Lawrence’s depictions of masculinity are scrutinized in light of theories of otherness, particularly the conflicting critiques of Simone de Beauvoir and Luce Irigaray. Over five chapters, which deal chronologically with Lawrence’s major novels, this thesis traces his response to the damaging legacy of a gendered mind-body split, often explored through a developing trope of the Lady of Shalott, which simultaneously circumscribes and challenges the perceived duality of gender. A third theme thus emerges from this dual line of enquiry, as anxieties about masculinity focus around the ambivalent figure of the angel, which represents both a seductive ideal of transcendence (the sexless angel) and the more elusive goal of reuniting mind and body (Irigaray’s carnal angel). Although notions of masculinity are always relational to images of femininity, this is particularly the case in Lawrence’s fiction, in which the relationship between men and women is probably the central concern. Accordingly, this thesis engages with masculinities from within a broader context of gender roles. Indeed, Lawrence’s men experience great difficulties in separating themselves from the women around them, while it is the women who begin to insist on the separateness of men and the idea of love as a “third thing” that allows a union of two subjects rather than a reduction to Platonic one-ness. This nascent ethics of gender difference is then taken forward by Rupert Birkin and his male successors, as Lawrence explores a new vision of divine manhood, culminating in the evocation of Oliver Mellors as a “pure masculine angel”
Date of Award2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorChristopher Ringrose (Supervisor)

Cite this

Masculinities in the novels of D.H. Lawrence: gender difference or transcendence
Reid, S. A. (Author). 2008

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis