Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Moseley, Virginia Douglas, 1917-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of English


Lawrence; D. H. (David Herbert); 1885-1930


Art and Metaphysics: D, H. Lawrence’s Theory of Aesthetics represents an attempt to present some of the most important aspects of the aesthetic which underlies D. H. Lawrence’s fiction. A brief review of some Lawrence criticism suggests the value of attempting to present Lawrence’s opinion regarding the place of ideas in the design of the creative artist’s work. A major contention of this study is the belief that an adequate critical approach to Lawrence’s fiction must take into account his explicit statements on the nature and the function of art. Consequently, the basic problem of this study has been to formulate a consistent theory of Lawrence’s aesthetic, Including a discussion of that special element in life and literature that he felt they must have if they are to be considered meaningful. In short, this essay is a study in critical definition—it is an attempt to define Lawrence’s special quality as a thinker and artist and to discuss the connection between his aesthetic and his philosophy of life, or "metaphysic," as he called it. Although Lawrence did not use the methodology of a professional aesthetician, a surprisingly consistent theory of aesthetics may be formulated from an examination of his expository writings. A number of these works, albeit abstract and metaphysical in character, furnish one with an invaluable source from which his creed as cum artist may be derived. The first four chapters of this study treat Lawrence's most general speculations upon the nature of art. The information in these chapters is drawn primarily from a body of expository writing which includes Lawrence's literary criticism; his various introductions and prefaces to his fiction; his collected letters; his abstract and theoretical works such as Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious, Fantasia of the Unconscious, and Apocalypse; and his miscellaneous essays and articles found in Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays. Assorted Articles, and Phoenix: The Posthumous Papers of D. H. Lawrence. Each of the next three chapters represents an attempt to illustrate the manner in which Lawrence used the novel, poetry, and literary criticism for metaphysical expression. The fifth chapter includes a discussion of all of Lawrence's essays on the novel. The next chapter is centered upon a close analysis of two of Lawrence's poems, "Terra Incognita" and "The Wild Common." The chapter on literary criticism deals with his criticism of Whitman as expressed in the Introduction to Hew Poems, the Whitman chapter in Studies in Classic American Literature, and the essay "Democracy" in Phoenix: The Posthumous Papers of D. H. Lawrence. The conclusion is reached in the final chapter that Lawrence's special quality as a thinker and writer may well reside in his ability to express in art what he believed philosophically. Lawrence's creative work was perhaps an attempt to discover or to read into the universe outside himself something which corresponded to certain instinctive truths that he found in himself. Art, in Lawrence's mind, had a social and moral mission to help man achieve a sound foundation for his sense of selfhood and a meaningful relation to his circumambient universe. Moreover, because Lawrence thought that any change In society must first begin as a change in the individual, he considered art a unique means of edification. By revealing the relation between man and his circumambient universe, art brings together the life of man and the life of nature through an ethos at once individual, social, and universal. To Lawrence, art was never an end in itself, but an instrument of discovery and knowledge, the means through which man's true relation to the universe is revealed. The sense of communion with the essential reality of the universe results from the spontaneous blending of the rational and the instinctive faculties within the reader's consciousness. To bring to the individual reader a realization of a deeper involvement in life and a vivid sense of relatedness to the universe was the mission of Lawrence's art.


Includes bibliographical references.


v, 106 pages




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