Tag Archives: life

Samuel Beckett – Malone Dies (1951)

Malone, who is naked in bed, tells the story of Sapo, a student that spends some of his time time around the Lamberts, a farming family. When Sapo grows up, Malone changes name to Macmann, finding Sapo ridiculous. Macmann falls over and is taken to St. John’s hospital. He is taken care of by Moll, an old woman with whom he makes love. Moll dies and is replaced by Lemuel. Lemuel supervises a group of inmates on a short excursion. He kills a couple of people, steals a boat, and the text closes with Macmann and others stranded in the water.


More barren than Molloy. All that sustains life, it seems, are stories and possessions (system of elimination and nutrition)–Malone delays his death (equivalent to both the wearing away of his pencil and the filling of his exercise book) through these distractions. Some lines to remember:

“What tedium” (a refrain repeated whenever Malone goes into the details of his own life)

“Nothing is more real than nothing” (Stevens-style, but needs to be related to the conflicted idealism of Jackson’s parrot. See next…)

“Nihil in intellectu” (without the famous restriction given by Aquinas, who argued that God could be proved by way of the senses)

“Groping” (if there is a verb that sums up the actions of the Trilogy, it is this one, cf. Adorno on the work of art’s essential “blindness”)

REST – death, sleep, rest become equivalent in Beckett subject. See Moran crawling, and also “passing from toil to rest in a single unbroken moment.”

“Life perhaps, the struggle to love, to eat, to escape the redressers of wrongs.” (the assumption being that guilt is inherent to human life)

“A few lines to remind me that I two subsist.” (Interesting dialogue could be staged between Browning and Beckett here: the relationship between artici creativity and life-sustaining activity…one is only alive in so far as they can represent their aliveness, or something like that)

“Two is company” (looking forward to later work, in which company is turned into a fiction, one that is unavoidable but inscrutable all at once. Can think of this whole novel as Beckett’s most rigorous attempt (so far) to delineate the bounds of the subject. But even then, the subject is not bound clearly.)

William Morris – News from Nowhere (1891)

Page numbers from Penguin (2004)

Sub-titled “An Epoch of Rest,” which is a polemic to keep in mind, since most of the novel describes scenes of labor.

A socialist fantasy that manages to combine Morris’ spiritual-romantic nostalgia for the Middle Ages with his radical political beliefs. William Guest, the main character, falls asleep one night and wakes up in the year 2102. He is led around the new England by Dick Hammond. He gets a long history lesson from “old Hammond.” He takes a boat trip up the Thames all the way to Oxford and beyond, to a harvest party. On the way, he meets Ellen, a fairy-like woman prone to making elegant political speeches. Ellen guesses Guest’s secret just before the final dinner. When Guest sits down, he realizes that no one recognizes him. Despondent, he walks back to town, sees an old, dying, ragged man and everything goes black. He wonders, Was it a vision or a dream?

The bulk of News from Nowhere is a thinly veiled didactic exposition on what socialism could/would enable. But the narrative frame should not be ignored. Morris has to work pretty hard to justify the first person–in short, there is a conflation of the first and third person:

But, says he, I think it would be better if I told them in the first person….which will indeed be the easier and more natural for me, since I understand the feelings and desires of the comrade of whom I am telling better than any one else in the world. (45)

This cumbersome “getting over into the I” is matched by the task of getting over into the future, one could say. The possibility of assuming the position of self-narrating narrator depends on a temporal problem, which gets staged towards the end of the novel:

I said, falteringly: ‘I was saying to myself, The past, the present? Should she not have said the contrast of the present and the future: of blind despair and hope?’ (222)

Guest is pulled between despair and hope, as “Nowhere” pulls between past and future. So at times he reminds other characters of a melancholic, “wanting to nurse a sham sorrow, like the ridiculous characters in some of those old queer novels” (217). This is precisely what Morris wants to refuse, and what makes this novel so different…almost not a novel. Do we contrast the present with the past (depressed 3rd person) or the present with the future (hopeful 1st person)? [still trying to work this out….] Perhaps this draws the difference between the creation of myth, or the telling of fictional history. The Golden Age becomes something to anticipate rather than long for. Thus the obvious pastoral nostalgia is paired with a practical politics and sustainable environmentalism.

Specific things to remember:

Art is called “work-pleasure.” It is, in short, consonant with modes of self-preservation and community. (160)

People don’t understand the idea of something’s value exceeding its use (81)…and, in line with Morris’ commitment to beautifying the everyday, there is a commitment to making basic things beautiful: clothing, tobacco pipes, etc. “You have added the utmost refinement of workmanship to the freedom of fancy and imagination” (201).

Children are educated in practical things. “Book-learning” is is casually taken up according to their interests. Contrast this utopian vision with Jude the Obscure. Morris’ portrait of Oxbridge dovetails with Hardy’s critique: the centers of learning are catering to an upper class intent on reproducing the relations of production. (103)

Morris is skeptical of technology and labor-sacing machines in general. He follows the Marxist critique: more extraction of labor, etc. Labor itself is glorified as and end in itself. “The reward for labor is life” (122).

As Guest journeys into the heart of England, his intellectual activity slowly gives way to instinctual desires…those things that have been suppressed or perverted by industrial capitalism.

The idea of the sojourner. There is a disturbing unremarkable quality to Guest’s entry and exit into “nowhere,” which could be read in terms of “open secrets.” The intrusion of the narrative voice that would narrate the perfection of the future is both acknowledge and not acknowledged. [work on this…]

Henri Bergson – Creative Evolution (1907, trans 1911)

Page numbers refer to Dover edition (1988)

Wants to bring together a theory of knowledge with a theory of life. The book reads like a polemic against interpeters of evolution that reduce that process to a mechanical chain ending in man as currently understood. Spencer’s thoery of evolution is wrong precisely because it interprets “evolution” from the standpoint of man as the finished product. There are “other forms of consciousness” that are eccentric to that narrative, and that exist in a register invisible to modes of understanding (dividing, solid, etc.), but nevertheless form “the luminous nucleus that we call the intellect” (xii). [Connect this with Woolf’s metaphor in Modern Fiction). The first chapter “tries on the ready-made  garments of mechanism and finality,” which neatly describe the explanations of Hume and Kant [Stage this conversation–talk about how Bergson’s solution is different.

The opening discussion of duration explains how stasis itself is change: every state of being is nothing other than the change from one state to another. “For a conscious being, to exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to on creating oneself endlessly” (7). But this creative process is paired with Time’s incessant “gnawing,” an accumulative snowballing process that threatens to overwhelm the subject, it seems.

Here is Bergson’s project: “Can we say that life, like conscious activity, is invention, is unceasing creation” (23)? My question: is Bergson articulating the subject that Marxism never could?

Radical mechanism is rejected, but finalist (teleology) is maintained in altered form. basically, Bergson wants to distinguish from assigning finite ends to particular objects, buts wants to maintain a sense of order that is defined precisely by its tendency to change. This rises above mechanism and finalism, because it renders the “variations” of nature non-accidental. It renders accident as somehow necessary….This converges with bergson’s thoughts on repetition: there is never repetition, only repetition with a difference (the accidental is therefore immanent to persistence of identity over time).The WILL is precisely that which does not counterfeit the intellectual modes of thought that abstract life as mere repetition, but partakes in evolution as such.

Another way to differ Bergson from, say, Kant, is that their ideas of how life proceeds to a particular goal are divergent. Bergson writes, “Life does not proceed by the association and addition of elements, but by disassociation and division.” Work out this in terms of Darwin, perhaps. ??? (89)

Bergson also has some curious stuff on the artist. Before we are willing, creative artists fashioning unforeseeable things, we are artisans that merely organize things within the boundaries of repetition. (45)

The next chapter is a critique of other philosophies of nature: Aristotle in particular, but Hegel is implied. The mistake is to see in vegetative torpor, animalistic instinct, and intelligence the very same tendency. Bergson says: no. They are three divergent directions of evolution they are successively disassociated. They are not a difference of intensity, but of kind (135). But they are interrelated. Consciousness (intelligence) is strictly negative: it measures the difference between the potential and the actual, between idea and act. It marks the deficit of instinct that gives rise to consciousness, which is in turn the starting point of instinct itself (145). He will say it otherwise: instinct is knowledge of matter, while intellect is knowledge of a form. Or, put yet another way: intelligence looks for things that it cannot find without instinct. Instinct alone can find these things, but it will not look (151). [Recapitulation of Schiller] Instinct/Intuition and intelligence comprise the ultimate tension within evolution as a whole (185).

The next chapter opens with a revision of Kant. The transcendental aesthetic spatializes all experience–Bergson claims that Kant gives an inadequate account of experience, describing instead what the intellect has already chopped up into intelligible chunks. Bergons will identify this as one of two processes that constitute life in general and distinguishes evolution from mere accident. Creative action, in fact, is nothing other than the “instantaneous cut” on a flux (249). Thus art can attain a sort of “perfect order” (223) that can “transcend finality” like creative evolution as such (224). In different terms, it will explicate this dialectic in terms of a global economy of energy: “a gradual accumulation of energy” and “an elastic canalization of this energy in variable and indeterminable directions, at the end of which are free acts” (255), or “explosive actions” as he says elsewhere, connecting him in interesting ways to Bataille (256). The chapter ends on a very Hegelian note, bringing together subject and substance, thought and life, etc. (Parmenedies, etc.):

Finally, consciousness is essentially free; it is freedom itself; but it cannot pass through matter without settling on it, without adapting itself to it: this adaptation is what we call intellectuality; and the intellect, turning itself back toward active, that is to say, free consciousness, naturally makes it enter into the conceptual forms into which it is accustomed to see matter fit. it will therefore always see freedom as necessity; it will always neglect the part of novelty or creation inherent in the free act. (270)

And the next chapter gets really Hegelian, claiming that we need to pay more attention to the “nought,” which is the secret motor of philosophical thought. The difference is that Bergson has intuition do a lot of the work that self-consciousness would do in Hegel, but still, a little fn. on Hegel would be nice. For Bergson, experience confronts us as becoming, which we then convert into something more static–“the mind seeks something that defies change” (314). This turns into a critique of Kant’s spatializing of experience. He cannot account for time spread out in space and real substantial duration (360). He can account for things that are sprung, but not grasp their “springing forth” (361). Thus Kant conflates sensuous experience with the cognitive faculty, both of which impose a form on external phenomena. Bergson asks, isn’t there a space for life? In Kant, perhaps, it is only the feeling of Life.





Martin Heidegger – Letter on Humanism (1947)

Page numbers are from Basic Writings (Harper, 2008)

An answer to the question: Comment redonner un sens au mot “Humansime?” Heidegger will question from the start whether we should maintain the word at all. He begins by explicating, more clearly than usual, the relationship between thinking and being. Thinking is an action. The essence of action is accomplishment of what already exists (not cause-effect) as unfolding. Thinking “accomplishes” the relationship between Being and man, because in thinking, Being comes to language. “Language is the house of being.” For thinking to be real thinking, it must stay in its “element,” and its element is Being.  The quiet power of the possible is Being itself: “to enable something here means to preserve its essence, to maintain it in its element” (220).Ok, so maintaining thinking within being preserves thinking as potential.if it goes out of its element (i.e., into the public realm), it becomes mere techne.

Now Heidegger dives into this element via the notions of CARE and EK-SISTENCE, both which characterize the ways in which man “stands-out” into the truth of being,  an ecstatic quality that differentiates him from animals and all other things. Man sustains Da-sein in that he takes the Da, the clearing of Being, into care (231). That is, Dasein’s positionedness in a world becomes an element with the care-structure that determines worldly relations. I’m not totally sure how this connects with the discourse of proximity, but I’m pretty sure that this clearing is space in which man becomes being’s neighbor, as Heidegger will famously write (245). Man is “more” than merely human, to the degree that more is not additive, but more “originally”:

Man, as the existing counter-throw of being, is more animal rationale precisely to the extent that he is less bound up with man conceived from subjectivity. Man is not the lord of beings. Man is the shepherd of Being. Man loses nothing in this “less”; rather, he gains in that he attains the truth of Being. He gains the essential poverty of the shepherd, whose dignity consists in being called by Being into the preservation of Being’s truth. (245)

Ok, this links up in all sort of interesting ways to Levinas’s notion of proximity. Determining the difference should take place via temporality (time of death v. time of the other). Heidegger is basically trying to articulate the essence of the human as neither the liberal subject nor the public man. “Humanism” should be thought in terms of nearness to being.

Heidegger believes that thinking in this manner–not overcoming but “climbing down” from the heights of metaphysics to the “nearest nearest”–is the “recollection of Being,” which exists before thought divides into practical and theoretical spheres. “Such thinking has no result. It has no effect. it satisfies its essence in that it is” (259). However, this mode of thought, that which attends itself to the clearing of Being (not solely to man as the ego cogito), as surpassing all praxis:

Thinking towers above action and production, not through the grandeur of its achievement and not as consequence of its effect, but through the humbleness of its inconsequential accomplishment. (262)

Indeed, the problem according to Heidegger is “quantitative.” We need to recognize the inconsequentiality of our “accomplishment” (as the unfolding of what already is) and the limits of philosophical thought: “less philosophy, but more attentiveness in thinking; less literature, but more cultivation of the letter” (265).



G.W.F. Hegel – The Philosophy of Nature (c.1820)

Page numbers refer to Miller translation (Oxford, 1970)

The second part of the Encyclopedia, sandwiched between the Logic and Spirit. It is divided into three sections: mechanics, physics, organics. The final section, in which I am most interested, is divided into terrestrial organ, the plant, and the animal. The animal section is subsequently divided into shape, assimilation, and the process of genus (or the relationship between individual and species). The move in each of these triadic moments is from universal to particular to concrete (unified) subjectivity. Life, which underwrites all of these movements, is perpetual return to the self: “it gives itself in the form of an object in order to return into itself and to be the accomplished return-into-self” (275).

Before getting to the animal, which is the fullest realization of this movement of life (it is in fact pure, self-determining negativity as such), it’s worth lingering with the plant. Hegel uses the plant to flesh out what could be called “immanent teleology,” similar to what Kant expounds in the second part of the third-critique, but rigorously without the imposition of the divine as guarantor of there teleologies. In short, the plant contains its own means and end. However, its relation to itself is immediately a relation to the outside world. Thus “the unification [of the moments] of self-preservation is not a union of the individual with itself but the production of a fresh plant-individual–the bud” (322). This illustrates what for Hegel is the primary motor of life–namely, a contradiction that compels a unification that always fails. The excess is life–both the life of nature and the life, one could argue, of Hegel’s system.

The animal differs from the plant in many ways–but the most important difference is that it has feeling, or “the existent ideality of being determined” (353). Or put otherwise, it has subjectivity, the self is for the self, it is not immediately related to externality like the plant. The process of determination is three-fold: 1. immediate, simply sensibility (nerves, brain, etc.); 2. particularity as the capacity for being stimulated and reaction, called irritability; 3. the negative return to the self which is the unity of the prior to movements–namely, reproduction, which includes the digestive system first and foremost.  The increasingly complexity of these processes–the means by which organisms divide inorganic material to be excreted and animalized matter ot be sublimated, for example–correlates with the complexity of the animal: “The simplest animals are merely an intestinal canal.”

These divisions are so rigorous and pervasive that they in fact begin to rebound on the very system of categorization that would contain them. So, for example, the mouth, while part of the system of sensibility…for it contains the tongue with which we taste (theoretical), also works to seize external objects and crunch them (practical); it is also the organ of the voice, thirst has its seat there; we laugh and kiss with the mouth: “thus the expressions of many sensations are unified in it” (374).

Assimilation is divided into the theoretical process, the practical process, and the Notional, which unifies the two previous. The animal stands in a state of tension without outside nature. By way of the five senses, the animal’s external relation is immediately reflected back into the self: this is the theoretical process, where appetite is checked. The practical process “begins with diremption of the organism within itself” (384)–that is, it is the feeling of lack and the urge to get rid of it. A being capable of containing this internal contradiction is the subject. The practical process if not free, since it is directed outwards, and freedom can only reside in the theoretical process of the sense, the reasonable will. Actin according to need (characterized as lack) is instinct. “Instinct is purposive activity acting unconsciously” (389). This very close to the aesthetic, it should be noted.

Assimilation works, first, by simple immediate transformation (infection), second, by mediation, which is digestion. Hegel does not want his theory of assimilation to be reducible either to mechanical (chomping) or chemical (saliva, gastric juices) processes. This process is not determined by an external teleology because it does not stop at the directing its activity against the out object but makes it into an object. In short, the animal, as “self-existnet Notion,” rids itself of it one-sided subjective anger towards the object, and finds the end and product of its activity to be “that which it already is at the beginning and originally” (397). In this way, Hegel writes, “the satisfaction conforms to reason…and the result is not the mere production of a means but of the end–union of the organism with itself.” Basically, the modes of external relation are always-already modes of internal self-realtion. Thus the explicit going outside of oneself of assimilation is an expression of the implicit return to oneself involved in every act of assimilation.

Now, this functions by a triple-determination. There is first the negation of the outside object (in anger), then the negation of the outward-turned activity (anger with the self), and then the positing of the self as self-identical, “but secondly, of reproducing itself in this self-preservation” (404). But the nature of the organism is to produce itself as external to itself (the production of the subject through determinate objects). It is in the very repelling of the self that the animal reproduces itself. And this is the final stage of animality, but it in turn takes three forms: simple repulsion, the constructivist instinct, and the propagation of the species. Hegel writes, “the highest and lowest parts in animal organization, are intimately connected: just as speech and kissing, on the one hand, and eating, drinking, and spitting, on the other, are all done with the mouth” (404).

Simple repulsion is excretion. It is the means by which “the organism gets rid of its entanglement with things” (405)–or, the discarding of the means after the end has been attained, which makes this purposive activity. For this reason, the Understanding, which attempts to reduce these mediations to mechanism and chemistry, are unable to comprehend vitality as such.

The constructive instinct, “that artistic impulse as instinct,” is the unity of the theoretical and practical processes of digestion. Like excretion, construction is a self-externaliztion, but one that builds an outside world:

The object is shaped in such a way in which it can satisfy the animal’s subjective need; but here there is not a mere hostile relationship to the outside world, but a peaceful attitude to outside existence. Appetite is thus at the same time satisfied and restrained; and the organism objectifies itself only by disposing of inorganic matter for it own purposes. Here, then, the practical and theoretical relationships are united. (406)

Hegel is here think of building nests, but also of relationships to the ground on which the animals lie, “which is not used up but merely fashioned and therefore preserved.” So in the constructive instinct the animal has reproduced itself as outer existence while remaining the same immediate creature: this is self-enjoyment. Up until now, the animal has only satisfied hunger or thirst, now it satisfies itself. (409) It cites the bird-song as the prime example of self-enjoyment.

Virginia Woolf – Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

The opening declarative sentence: “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.” The question remains, “to whom did she say this?” From the beginning, performance of the self is highlighted, how we comport ourselves within restricted fields to determinate others. Also, after the lark and the plunge (exaltation of larks is the term of venery…connect with Yeats discourse on birds), the field of phenomena is presented by way of clauses separated by semi-colons, a formal feature characteristic of Woolf. Think of the semi-colon as somewhere between the (Joycean) colon and the more traditional comma—granting relative autonomy to clauses, but binding them into some sort of narrative that makes the part more than the whole. Bring together with Hulmean-Bergsonian reflections on stasis and movement—how to render movement in an instant..-to render becoming more fundamental than being, etc. Further, a good example of what she calls the cotton-wool of daily life, how the myriad impressions (along with certain social roles such as wife, host, etc.) become constitutive of the self. Clarissa actually feels herself becoming “invisible, unseen; unknown” (11).

THE URBAN IN WOOLF: as opposed to Joyce, in which Bloom sifts and sorts through a barrage of commodities and advertisements, the Woolfean character sees the reflected back in the objects that we confront in our daily rounds: So while Clarissa might “slice like a knife through everything,” opening up an absence consonant with her subjective shrinkage, she also recognizes in “the ebb and flow of things,” the survival of a history she has already brought into being. CRUCIAL: the temporal present of everyday experience is punctuated by a history that is never suppressed by habit; rather, it is disclosed through habit. At times, the self seems to dissolve: individuals are united into loose collectivities when they see the figure aristocratic god passing in the carriage, or the new god of advertising appearing in the sky–much like in Wandering Rocks. This points forward to the experiments with the multiple self in The Waves.

Contextualize this reading of the ordinary within her distinction of being and non-being in “Sketch of the Past.” It is somehow as if non-being is exactly those trivial facts of life that we always overlook, but which fiction must labor to unveil. How this intersects with her notion of the trivial in “Modern Fiction” is up for debate. One can at least say that the play between being and non-being is not immediately conscripted into Hegelian becoming, but non-being seems able to exist as an autonomous field. Relate this to the Time Passes section in To the Lighthouse. Also, worth contrasting the various modes of habit that characterize Proust, Beckett, Beckett on Proust, and Woolf. For Beckett, habit makes like possible…but it also circumscribes life within its tight loop of repetition. For Woolf (and for Proust, too), habit is precisely that which evades representation because it is so close to the very mechanism of memory itself. Elucidating habit, outside of the scope of habit, is precisely the task they set for themselves.

And then contrast Dalloway’s phenomenology with that of Septimus Harding, who is, in some sense, a too perfect reader of modernist literature (“susceptibility to impressions had been his undoing”)…that is, his psyche has undergone the same forms of fragmentation that lead to the arbitrary collection “anarchy and futility” of daily life. He is not capable of making new wholes, in the Eliotic sense. Rather, he finds beauty in the advertisement in the sky, “

bestowing upon him in their inexhaustible clarity and laughing goodness one shape after another of unimaginable beauty and signaling their intention to provide him, for nothing, for ever, for looking merely, with beauty, more beauty! Tears ran down his cheeks. (22)

Can relate this to Benjamin’s theory of aura and the commodity. In some sense, he has understood too exactly the mechanism of the modern artwork. But Clarissa is attuned to the social coordinates that are in fact ordering this fragmentation. Like the viceregal calvalcade in Wandering Rocks, the carriage draws together and orders the perceptual fields of the myriad characters in the opening passage. But even them, Clarissa must stand in front of mirror to constitute to herself a coherence of the self. Talk about this mirror in terms of the many other mirrors: the cracked looking glass in Wilde and Stephen’s Telemachus chapter; the pool in Nausicaa; deKoven in Rich and Strange; Mill on the Floss; Lady of Shallot; etc. Peter also has his own idea of beauty, on that inheres within the furniture of drawing rooms, piano, gramophone and corridor, the glimpse of the social as it is revealed in the sudden moment of seeing a dinner party through a window (163)

The not entirely arbitrary imposition of unity in the form of the bell tolling from Big Ben: Contrast this with the Eliot-Joyce mythical method. Also contrast with the bell ringing in Murphy, how Murphy’s “internal” clock is impossibly aligned with such tolling. Such devices are common, present even in Gabriel Oak’ watch that has a minute hand but no hour hand. Talk about Bergson. Spetimus has a different relationship to Time: it engulfs him, its splits it husk, poured its riches over him (cf. Baudelaire: “Le Temps m’engloutit minute par minute”). SO TIME: on the one hand,  can become overwhelming if not ordered, if it becomes overly subjective (as in the case of Septimus), but it’s overly objective ordering (in the form of Big Ben) can be equally harmful. 

Sally Seton and the kiss. Established as an alternative pre-history. In general, talk about how the past punctuates the present. Contrast the shock of the past in Septimus, to the healthy sublimation of the past in someone like Clarissa. Also crucial spatial aspect: her memory is located in the pastoral countryside, while Spetimus’ memory is dislocated from that landscape…on the battlefield (Evans appears with frightening immediacy).

Peter, at the end, feels ecstasy and terror (much like “terrible beauty” of “Easter 1916”) at the “presenting” of Clarissa Dalloway. Read Peter as a Prufrock of sorts, an educated professional class on longer valued in terms of land, blood and money, but in terms of functional work within the system of Imperialism. Compare to Cecil in Passage to India…the product of an England that has dissolved (in contrast to Whitbread, Bradshaw, Richard Dalloway, etc.)

D.H. Lawrence – Women in love (1916, 1921)

In the Foreward (1919), Lawrence takes aim at those critics that attempted to censor Women in Love in the same way that The Rainbow was censored back in 1915. He accuses those of living in the form of the old, in which they will perish, much like Birkin will theorize throughout the novel. He also preempts critics that would take issue with the forms of repetition that Lawrence uses throughout. He says that the “pulsing, frictional to-and-fro” motion working up to some sort of “culmination” is what fiction is.

The plot: Ursula and Gudrun Bragwen are two sisters, thoroughly modern, that will eventually be paired with Birkin and Gerald, respectively. Birkin is a stand in for Lawrence, spouting off a bunch of theories about passion, life, convention, etc. Gerald is a passionate captain of industry that eventually dies for love of Gudrun in the French Alps.

Nietzsche: In short, a vulgarized Nietzsche. Compare with Hardy in Tess, where dangerous activity of equating a character with a vital ontology leads to tragedy, whereas in Lawrence, he just assumes that ontology as that which needs to be embraced. This leads to all sorts of ethical problems, ranging from violence towards women to the environmental effects of over-extracting coal from the earth. Also, worth comparing to Tarr…in the Preface to that novel, Lewis talks about the English obsession with Nietzsche, and will go on to critique that sort of unrestrained passion in the form of Kreisler. But he of course turns the screw again by hollowing out the more traditional, Eliotic notion of the artist in the figure of Tarr himself.

Description as Repetition: Lawrence describes his mode of fiction as “repetition with modification,” and this bears out in the use of a single word multiple times within a single paragraph. In order to describe Ursula’s reaction to the urban, he uses the words sordid, ugly, amorphous, and formless mutliple times in different combinations. Similarly, a water-party is described with booming, splashing , drowned, all repeated twice. The effect is one in which the language takes on a mimetic power–not that it necessarily mimes the things it is describing, but that it mimes the sort of sexualized repetition and friction that characterizes the act of writing itself.

The Wrestling Match: Work out Lawrence’s  gender fantasies. It seems to me to be a vulgarized version of Nietzsche imported into, first of all, the blond beast that goes by the name of Gerald (the chapter on the Industrial magnate is one lone discourse on the will to power as manifested through the extraction of coal). But it is also present in the way that Lawrence attempts to excise the woman from the passionate impulse. He wants to make desire immanent to the person desiring, rather than locating it in the object of desire. Thus two men can love without loving something or someone–it is the motion of repetition and struggle that is characteristic of desire.

The classroom: this chapter is the first time we get Birkin lecturing on his theory if passion, life, etc. Ironically, it is Ursula’s classroom. He is accusing her of only wanting knowledge of passion, consciousness, etc., while what has real value is passion itself. Ursula hardly responds to any of Birkin’s point, making Birkin into the didactic, thus subverting his own attempts to live out his theories.