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Title: D.H. Lawrence and the Great War : destruction and creation in European history
Author: Koh, J. K.
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 1998
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Lawrence believed that the gigantic cataclysm of the Great War was the result of a long historico-cultural process which had shaped the European psyche in profound ways. His belief that Christian idealism could have a cumulative effect on successive generations implies a Lamarckian notion of the 'inheritance of acquired characteristics'. The firm code of behaviour, the discipline and the restraints on the senses and the ego, which Christianity stood for, became steadily internalised and increasingly instinctive through the Christian centuries in Europe. And as the process continued it became more and more difficult to break away from that ethos. Lawrence reflected on the central causes of the Great War in this perspective, concluding that they could be found in the psychological correlation between the over-emphasis of the 'spiritual' inherent in the Christian tradition, and the accompanying denial and repression of the 'sensual' instincts - the deep natural energies of man. Lawrence's imaginative response to the War reflects his genuine horror at what he saw happening around him. He condemned the baseness and repulsiveness of an industrialised and mechanised Europe, its pretensions to civilisation so barbarously exposed by the war. Lawrence however, did not stop at the destruction occasioned by the war: the question he (with many of his contemporaries) felt they had to explore - Women in Love, in particular, wrestles with it - was whether, through this cataclysm, would come a transition to a new world. In his fiction and his essays, Lawrence presents a possible basis for a culturally regenerated society: its foundation would be a kind of social relationship which has its roots in the pre-industrial order. For Lawrence, 'blood-warmth' was what linked human beings; it is an expression of our deepest psychic needs and desires, and as such represents a bond between people with its basis in something shrewder and more perceptive than any conscious choice or decision. The Great War, for Lawrence, was a hugely destructive event - yet looked at in the very long term, in relation to the major phase of human history which was the Christian era - it could be seen as not an end, but as the culmination of the negative part of a major historical cycle, and as the necessarily destructive prelude to and preparation for a new cultural beginning.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available