The modernist angel : art at the limits of the human in D.H. Lawrence, H.D. and Mina Loy
The subject of this thesis is a figure that might provisionally be called the *modemist angel'. Focusing on modernist literature, and more particularly on the work of D. H. Lawrence, H. D. and Mina Loy, it aims to isolate from the many angels found in all periods and all types of art a historically specific and intellectually coherent paradigm: an angel of and for its modernist times. A figure of precisely this type could be said to exist in the form of Walter Benjamin's 'angel of history'. Critics who address the question of the modern angel in texts by Franz Kafka and Rainer Maria Rilke often do so in conjunction with the problem posed by the angel of history. Beginning with a chapter on Benjamin, this thesis nevertheless follows a different trajectory. Over five chapters, it explores a modernist landscape formed not only by Lawrence, H. D. and Loy, but also by European and American writers such as A. R. Orage, Allen Upward, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Havelock Ellis, Edward Carpenter, Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Nietzsche. Although the angel that emerges from this investigation might, in some respects, be said to anticipate Benjamin's later version, this figure is also very different, standing for a project that is distinctively, and recognisably, modernist in nature. He/she (the sex of the modernist angel is often open to question) represents an attempt to reconcile the divine responsibilities of the artist with the material and gendered conditions of being, specifically of being human, in the modem world. This thesis looks again at the clash of intellectual paradigms in the early-twentieth century - notably, the confrontation of the Romantic view of art as a superhuman or sacred undertaking with the psychoanalytical or evolutionary idea that all human endeavour is underpinned by sub-human motives - and suggests the angel as a new and instructive figure through which to think the perilous limits between the human and the divine in modernist literature.