Lawrence's bildungsroman and the science of sexual development.
When he read his case history, he told me, the whole of it came to him as something unknown; he did not recognize himself; he could remember nothing; and it was only when he came upon the journey to Gmunden that there dawned on him a kind of glimmering recollection that it might have been he himself that it happened to. So the analysis had not preserved the events from amnesia, but had been overtaken by amnesia itself.
The polymorphously perverse "Little Hans" of Freud's case study is unrecognizable to Hans the young man. To Freud's mind, this is remarkable only because he has been subjected to psychoanalytic treatment during childhood, which might have disrupted the course of his development in the process of curing his neurotic behavior. Far from damaging the boy, psychoanalytic treatment has given him an advantage over other children by freeing him from the burden of unresolved developmental problems. "He declared that he was perfectly well, and suffered no troubles or inhibitions," Freud writes; and not only had he endured puberty "without any damage," his "emotional life" had "successfully undergone one of the severest of ordeals"--his parents' divorce. Hans's inability to recognize his younger self in Freud's case study is, paradoxically, a sign of normalcy. For Freud, as for the audience of specialists on juvenile development to which his case study is addressed, the transformation from childhood to normal adulthood entails the complete or partial occlusion of childhood experience.
In D. H. Lawrence's bildungsroman Sons and Lovers (1913), the protagonist, Paul Morel, encounters a similar gap between childhood and adulthood. In the final pages of the novel, after Paul's mother has died and he has made a permanent break with his first two lovers, Miriam and Clara, Paul confronts the prospect of his future life--a life he will lead, for the first time, without his mother's support--as a vast existential blank. This final scene is set against a nightscape onto which Paul projects his overwhelming sense of abandonment:
On every side the immense dark silence seemed pressing him, so tiny a speck, into extinction, and yet, almost nothing, he could not be extinct. Night, in which everything was lost, went reaching out, beyond stars and sun. Stars and sun, a few bright grains, went spinning round for terror and holding each other in embrace, there in a darkness that outpassed them all and left them tiny and daunted. So much, and himself, infinitesimal, at the core a nothingness, and yet not nothing. (464)
Now that Paul's mother is gone and he is no longer a child, nothing seems to separate him from death and eternity. The social relationships that have defined his identity up to this point (like the stars and sun that seem to embrace each other in the night sky) collapse under the pressure of mortality (the darkness that "outpassed them all"). In the infinite universe, Paul realizes, humans are so small that they are almost nothing--"tiny and daunted," like the stars. Paul's distress here thus stems not just from the recent death of his mother but also from the sheer incomprehensibility of his future. Adulthood opens before him like a trap door.
These two texts from the beginning of the twentieth century depict, from different vantage points, a gap between childhood experience and adulthood that emerged in literary and scientific discourse concurrently. In both texts, any connection between childhood and adulthood lacks narrative coherence. For Lawrence's Paul Morel as for Freud's Little Hans, the transformation from childhood to adulthood is marked not by recognition and self-fulfillment but rather confusion and disidentification; childhood and adult versions of the same subject are incomprehensible to each other. As Hans cannot conceive of the course of development by which he has become what Freud saw as a normal adult, so Paul cannot envision life after childhood. The devastated young man in Lawrence's novel and the well-adjusted young man in the postscript to Freud's case study represent a revolution in thinking about juvenile development.
During the nineteenth century, scientists specializing in childhood and adolescence took for granted the existence of a course of development, predetermined by nature and observable through scientific inquiry, which would lead to normal (i.e. heterosexual and reproductive) adulthood. Around the turn of the twentieth century, a generation of sexologists including Havelock Ellis, Max Dessoir, Albert Moll, and Sigmund Freud (whose writings on sexuality address sexological debates) interrogated this notion of human development, suggesting that childhood was in fact dominated by irrational, unsocialized psychosexual impulses. (1) Their inquiries threw into question the assumption--manifest in nineteenth-century literary and scientific representations of development--that youth is a period of life wherein all the elements of adulthood are present or in the process of emerging and that this process of emergence follows a path predetermined by natural instincts. Although modern sex researchers disagreed about the nature of juvenile sexual development, their theories of childhood development proceed from the same premise, that the unruly impulses and pleasures of childhood stand in uncertain relation to the stable identity and narrowly defined desires of mature adulthood. Of course, their discovery of non-normative sexuality in early childhood and adolescence did not bring an end to teleological models for juvenile development. To the contrary, in the 1920s and 1930s psychologists and sexologists would develop new developmental models that treated nonnormative sexuality as an essential phase in the "normal" child's progression to adulthood. (2) During the opening decades of the twentieth century, however, when Lawrence wrote Sons and Lovers and Freud published his case study of Little Hans, a new scientific paradigm for childhood and adolescent development had yet to rise to prominence. It was this lack of consensus about the causal links between non-normative sexuality in childhood and the stable sexual identities of many adults, not the Freudian consensus that would eventually emerge from these debates, that catalyzed Lawrence's break with tradition in Sons and Lovers and The Rainbow.
This essay revises conventional accounts of the intellectual genealogy of Lawrence's first major novel. It was a set of interconnected debates about juvenile sexuality in the multidisciplinary field of sexology, not Freudian theory, that spurred Lawrence's revision of the generic protocols of the bildungsroman in Sons and Lovers. Lawrence first heard about these scientific discussions of sexual development from Frieda Weekley while he was in the process of writing Sons and Lovers, and this knowledge shaped the evolution of the novel's third and final draft. Placing Lawrence's novel of development in the context of the discourse around childhood sexuality in sexology considerably complicates our understanding of its relationship with currents of thought in science and philosophy during the period. Far from a straightforward rejection of scientific theories of sex or an attempt to convert them into aesthetic material, Sons and Lovers actively participates in a transformation and expansion of the lexicon of stories that play a crucial role in determining what counted as normal and, indeed, what counts as human in European culture. (3)
Lawrence's novel expands the realist proportions of the bildungsroman to include experiences during childhood and infancy that precede the emergence of the protagonist's conscious will. In so doing, it brings the generic dictates of the traditional bildungsroman up to date with the modern concept of childhood--then being articulated by sexologists in scientific journals and monographs--as a primarily physical and implicitly sexual process. This is not to say that Lawrence and modern sex researchers discovered the true nature of sexual development. On the contrary, Lawrence's formal experiments participate in the invention, by scientists and novelists, of a new conception of juvenile development in which non-normative sexual desires are considered natural among children. Ellis, Dessoir, Moll, Freud, and their contemporaries overturned a consensus of opinion about the nature of childhood development that had drawn many of its assumptions from nineteenth-century fiction. When sexologists began to emphasize the frequency with which nonnormative sexual phenomena occur during childhood, they were also throwing into doubt the dominant narrative paradigm for youth in European culture. Lawrence's novel thus opens a window onto a broad cultural shift: the simultaneous and mutually reinforcing transformation of the bildungsroman in literary and scientific discourse.
Lawrence's first major novel, Sons and Lovers diagnoses as a pressing social problem the discrepancy between the bodily experience of growing up and the idealized notions of development, discredited by sexologists but promoted by medical science and institutionalized through public education. To address this discontinuity, Lawrence modifies the traditional bildungsroman. By developing a narrative form capable of representing growth as a simultaneously physiological and psychological process, Lawrence aims to examine--and ameliorate--the social causes underlying the developmental problems that, he believes, are pervasive among young British men and women. What is needed to liberate young men from the "misery of celibacy" (323), Lawrence suggests, is a new narrative paradigm for youth, one capable of accommodating the irreducibly complex and ambiguous sexual feelings of childhood and early adolescence. Indeed, in later writings that treat the problem of sexual development, like Fantasia of the Unconscious, Lawrence directs his experiments with form toward the concrete political goal of comprehensive educational reform. (4)
Articulating a model for childhood development was one of D. H. Lawrences major intellectual projects. It was a project he undertook first in novelistic form, transforming the traditional bildungsroman in Sons and Lovers and The Rainbow, and that he subsequently pursued in later writings on education and in essays such as "Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious" (1921) and Fantasia of the Unconscious (1922). Sons and Lovers can thus be understood as Lawrence's first attempt to find a suitable form for representing the mysterious process of sexual self-formation.
Lawrence and psychoanalysis
Lawrence's vocal criticism of Freud and the way so many of his novels seem to invite psychoanalytic interpretation have given rise to a longstanding critical debate on the topic of "Lawrence and Psychoanalysis." Soon after its publication, Freudian readers celebrated the value of Sons and Lovers as an illustration of Freud's theory of the Oedipus complex. When Barbara Low sent Lawrence a copy of the July 1916 issue of the Psychoanalytic Review that included a positive review of Sons and Lovers, Lawrence was furious: "I hated the Psychoanalysis Review of Sons and Lovers. ... My poor book: it was, as art, a fairly complete truth: so they carve a half lie out of it, and say 'Voila.' Swine!" ("Letter"). Early Lawrence critics seeking to safeguard Lawrence's place in the canon of twentieth-century English literature shared the author's concern to protect his novels from reductive psychoanalytic readings and assert their status as organically unified representations of reality. In Freudianism and the Literary Mind, for example, Frederick Hoffman opens his chapter on "Lawrence's Quarrel with Freud" with this declaration:
In May, 1913, when Sons and Lovers was published by Duckworth of London, Lawrence was pointed out as a novelist with exceptional insight into such psychoanalytic problems as incest-horror and the Oedipus complex. Yet that novel was written before Lawrence had any real acquaintance with Freud, and before he mentions Freud in any of his letters. Such Freudian criticisms were at best exaggerated. Sons and Lovers demonstrates that Lawrence needed no theory except his own to aid him in his analysis of character. Most important, all of Lawrence's work bears ultimate reference to his own experience, no matter how many suggestions of "alien theory" it may contain. (151)
Critics like Hoffman downplayed the influence of Lawrence's partial knowledge of Freud on the writing of his novels, celebrating their "fairly complete truth" in opposition to psychoanalytic accounts of life. For Hoffman, the status of Sons and Lovers as great art attests to Lawrence's analytical powers and the breadth of his subjective experience. "Freudian criticisms" assume incorrectly, he argues, that Lawrence's analysis of character was aided by an external theoretical framework.
The coincidence of the rise of Freudian theory and the publication of Lawrence's novel has confined the critical debate about Lawrence and psychoanalysis to questions of influence. Critics approaching this well-worn topic tend to ask, what did Lawrence really know of Freud when he was writing Sons and Lovers? And to what extent does that knowledge--the presence of "alien theory"--compromise the novel's status as a great work of art? From the debate surrounding these questions, two basic positions have emerged. The first reads Lawrence's novels to extract the "theory" that aids Lawrence's analysis of character, measures it against Freud's theory of mind, and celebrates Lawrence's anticipation of critiques of Freud and other psychoanalytic theorists as evidence of the novels' accurate representation of "life." The second critical position assesses Lawrence's knowledge of and attitude toward Freud at various periods in the novelist's life, using evidence from the novels and the archive to demonstrate how Lawrence intuited modern ways of thinking about sex that have become closely associated with Freud. The problem with these approaches is that they take for granted the status of Freudian theory as a fully articulated system of ideas (that Lawrence could variously intuit or critique at any stage in his career) and treat human sexuality (and, more improbably, "the unconscious") as a transhistorical reality that Freud and Lawrence could "discover" independently or in concert.
Critics usually identify the beginning of Lawrences relationship with Frieda Weekley as Lawrence's "first encounter" with "Freudian theory." In "The Tyranny of the Text: Lawrence, Freud, and the Modernist Aesthetic," for example, Anne Fernihough writes, "Lawrence first encountered Freudian theory (in a diluted and perhaps distorted form) on meeting Frieda Weekley in 1912, and subsequently through discussions with Freudian analysts David Eder and Barbara Low in 1914" (48-49). The basic biographical data here is correct. Lawrence probably first heard about Freud from Frieda Weekley, who had first heard about Freud herself from her former lover, Otto Gross (1877-1920); and Lawrence did subsequently pursue his interest in Freudian theory in conversations with Eder and Low. However, in framing these events as a sequence of encounters with Freudian theory, Fernihough exaggerates the status of Freud's ideas as a unified theoretical system in 1912 and abstracts Freudian theory entirely from its immediate context.
This emphasis on "Freudianism" derives from Frieda Lawrences autobiographical account of her relationship with Lawrence, Not I, But the Wind. In this book, Frieda Lawrence presents her affair with Otto Gross as the essential prehistory to her life with Lawrence. She writes, "I had just met a remarkable disciple of Freud [Otto Gross] and was full of undigested theories. This friend did a lot for me. I was living like a somnambulist in a conventional set life and he awakened the consciousness of my own proper self" (3). When she first met Lawrence, they discussed at length these "undigested theories," and these long conversations about modern theories of sexuality, in which Frieda and Lawrence "talked about Oedipus and understanding leaped through our words" (4), are presented as an extended debate about Freud. However, this simply reflects the increased popularity and institutionalization of Freudian theory in the 1920s and 1930s. What Lawrence actually "encountered" in conversation with his new lover in 1912 was an as yet unresolved scientific debate about sexuality--and sexual development in particular--that Freud would come to dominate only in ensuing decades and eventually occlude altogether.
John Middleton Murry, a critic and sometime friend of D. H. Lawrence, correctly discerned in Lawrence's attacks on psychoanalysis a recognition of "the scope, the envergure, of the problems of which psychoanalysis has touched the fringe" (186), not the rebuttal of a specific system of Freudian ideas. Responding to a letter from Hoffman inquiring about the influence of Freudian theory on Sons and Lovers, Frieda Lawrence writes:
Yes, Lawrence knew about Freud before he wrote the final draft of Sons and Lovers.... (1) don't remember whether he had read Freud or heard of him before we met in 1912. But I was a great Freud admirer; we had long arguments and Lawrence's conclusion was more or less that Freud looked on sex too much from the doctor's point of view, that Freud's "sex" and "libido" were too limited and mechanical and that the root was deeper.
(qtd. in Hoffman 154)
However, Frieda's description of herself in this letter as "a great Freud admirer" and, in her autobiography, Otto Gross as "a remarkable disciple of Freud"--in a phrase echoed in Lawrence criticism--is slightly misleading.
Originally trained as a doctor, Otto Gross became involved in psychology first through research into pathological behaviors akin to the work of the Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso. Gross's early works address the subject of pathological psychology from a vaguely Darwinist viewpoint, explaining criminal behaviors in terms of genetic degeneration. Around 1900 Gross found in psychoanalysis a new etiology for mental illness, but Gross's approach to psychoanalytic therapy was unorthodox. Whereas Freud sought to treat neuroses through therapy, Gross wanted to cure his patients through radical social reforms that would remove all external restraints on human sexuality. After completing a series of sessions with C. G. Jung, Gross "ended his analysis by jumping over the wall of the Burgholzi Mental Hospital" (Turner 143). In a letter to Freud dated 19 June 1908, Jung criticizes Gross's liberationist posture: "He is now living under the delusion that I have cured him and he has already written me a letter overflowing with gratitude, like a bird escaped from its cage" (Jung 156). Gross's notion that personal sexual freedom cured neurosis departed widely from orthodox psychoanalytic practice and theory. He thus presented to Frieda--and Frieda, in turn, presented to Lawrence--an extremely idiosyncratic version of "Freudian theory." "Come, Frieda, come to me," Gross proclaimed in one of his love letters to Frieda, "You know my faith, that it is always only out of decadence that a new harmony in life creates itself--and that the wonderful age in which we find ourselves has been appointed the Epoch of Decadence which will be the womb of a great future" (188-89). The promise of complete liberation and sexual utopia would eventually draw Gross away from psychology entirely, as he gave up psychoanalytic practice to become a prominent figure in the continental anarchist movement.
The "undigested theories" that Frieda described to Lawrence challenged the novelist's assumptions about the problem of development in modern society. Lawrence disagreed with the details of Freud's theory and the scientific methods of psychoanalysis from the beginning, but he shared with Freud and his contemporaries a skepticism about received attitudes toward childhood sexuality and a belief in the social value of factually verifiable information about childhood development. Originally a teacher, Lawrence was already familiar with the political and cultural issues related to childhood development. He trained first as a pupil-teacher at the British School in Eastwood and subsequently at the University College at Nottingham before taking a position at the Davidson Road School in Croydon. The theories of childhood development that he encountered in his pedagogical training probably reinforced the ideas about sexuality and personal development that Lawrence had already derived from his readings in German philosophy, particularly the works of Arthur Schopenhauer, who in "The Metaphysics of Love" argues that, whether or not people are aware of it, the purpose of all love affairs is reproduction. In Sons and Lovers, when Paul tells Miriam that he believes "we've got a proper way to go" (193), he is speaking from a vaguely Darwinist view of development similar to the one articulated by Schopenhauer.
By 1912, when he was writing Sons and Lovers, Lawrence had already begun to question the view of development that Paul echoes here in conversation with Miriam. Miriam is based on Jessie Chambers, Lawrence's former companion and lover, who believed that his mother had destroyed their relationship. Chambers encouraged Lawrence's growing suspicion that his intense emotional relationship with his mother had interfered with his own sexual life, and she questioned his sympathetic treatment of Gertrude Morel in early drafts of the novel. As Chambers recalls in her autobiography, "she hoped that as he wrote Lawrence would achieve such profound understanding of his mother's possessiveness and domination that he would be bound to liberate himself from them" (193). Frieda Weekley had a similar response to the novel and its autobiographical source. When she read early drafts of Sons and Lovers, then titled Paul Morel, its relevance to Freud's ideas excited her. Writing to Garnett in September, 1912, she exclaimed, "I think L. quite missed the point in 'Paul Morel.' He really loved his mother more than anybody, even with his other women, real love, sort of Oedipus" (Lawrence, Letters 449).
Skeptical at first, Lawrence eventually embraced Frieda's reading. He then changed the title from "Paul Morel" to "Sons and Lovers" and identified the mother's treatment of the sons as "lovers" as the novel's unifying theme in the 1913 "Foreword" (which Lawrence did not write for publication).There, he declares, "The old son-lover was Oedipus. The name of the new one is legion" (473). This change in title indicates a basic shift in focus from the experience of the protagonist to what Lawrence saw as the historical and psychological pressures obstructing the development of young people in modern society. Galvanized by new insights into his own youthful experiences and the "undigested theories" that Frieda introduced to him, Lawrence set out to modernize the dominant novelistic paradigm for youth in light of the ongoing reconceptualization of youth in scientific discourse.
Sex research and the bildungsroman
In his 1987 The Way of the World, Franco Moretti argues influentially that the formal expression of youth in the bildungsroman allowed European culture to give meaning to the chaos of modernity. The form makes the disconcerting upheavals of modernity representable, Moretti argues, by preserving the "inner dissatisfaction" and "mobility" that "make novelistic youth symbolic of modernity" within the static features of an established literary form, a fixed narrative paradigm (5)."Youth is brief, or at any rate circumscribed, and this enables, or rather forces the a priori establishment of a formal constraint on the formal portrayal of modernity," explains Moretti: "Only by curbing its intrinsically boundless dynamism, only by agreeing to betray to a certain extent its very essence, only thus, it seems, can modernity be represented" (6).Taking Moretti's argument one step further, we might say that the very notion of maturity--the point at which development is complete--makes youth legible by turning the unorganized experience of growing up into a sequence of recognizable, self-contained stages of development. For this reason, novelistic and scientific accounts of juvenile development alike depend on narrative paradigms to make youth coherent and to mark the boundary between youth and adulthood, betraying the true nature of youth to make it representable; its dynamism, too, is "intrinsically boundless."
The prevalence of the bildungsroman form in nineteenth-century Europe obscured its status as a cultural artifact--and thus also its historicity--transforming into a fact of nature something that originated as a philosophical ideal. Taking Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship Years (1795-96) and Friedrich Holderlin's Hyperion (1797-99) as definitive examples of the form, Wilhelm Dilthey, who first popularized the term "bildungsroman" at the end of the nineteenth century, identifies the bildungsroman as the expression in fictional form of Bildung, an Enlightenment ideal of self-cultivation. Dilthey's essay on Holderlin articulates this ideal: "A lawlike development is discerned in the individual's life; each of its levels has intrinsic value and is at the same time the basis for a higher level. Life's dissonances and conflicts appear as necessary transitions to be withstood by the individual on his way towards maturity and harmony" (336). The bildungsroman thus promotes "an ideal of humanity" through an innately teleological narrative structure: the meaning and value of youthful experience is determined by its outcome; in its complete form, the bildungsroman parcels youth into stages, each of which gains meaning as a part of this sequence.
As twentieth-century critics have shown, this teleological model for individual development gained political significance in nineteenth-century Europe with the formation of modern nation states. M. M. Bakhtin has famously described the bildungsroman as "an image of man [sic] growing in national historical time" (21). Contrasting the modern bildungsroman with "the mass type" of novels, which offers "the image of the ready-made hero," Bakhtin finds in the Goethean bildungsroman (or "the novel of emergence") "an image of man in the process of becoming": "Changes in the hero acquire plot significance, and thus the entire plot of the novel is reinterpreted and reconstructed. Time is introduced into man, enters into his very image, changing in a fundamental way the significance of all aspects of his destiny and life." The equation of personal and national emergence in the bildungsroman makes the disordered experiences of youth coherent and, at the same time, confers authority onto the social order into which the protagonist is assimilated. As in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, the narrative closure achieved at the end of the classic bildungsroman makes the community that the protagonist joins when he becomes a "mature" adult seem like the outcome of a natural and proper course of development. As the individual progresses from the selfishness and irresponsibility of childhood toward mature adulthood, so primitive communities evolve into modern nation-states. By yoking together stories of individual and historical progress, the bildungsroman produces a picture of youth that reinforces the values of an existing social order into which the individual youth, who might otherwise challenge or question, assimilates as an adult. (5)
Recently, scholars in modernist studies like Jed Esty, Tobias Boes, and Gregory Castle have linked the temporal irregularities and fragmentary narratives typical of modernist novels of formation to anomalies in the second half of Bakhtin's bildungsroman equation, "national historical time." Geopolitical factors such as colonialism and bureaucratization, these critics argue, prevent nation-state formation from functioning as a stable background for individual subject formation. (6) Their principal examples are works, like Lord Jim, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and The Voyage Out, in which the political conditions of late imperialism directly affect the development of the protagonist. Yet unlike his globe-trotting counterparts in these works, Paul Morel seldom travels and never leaves England. The disrupted rhythms of "national-historical time" enter Sons and Lovers indirectly, if at all. (7) In light of Lawrence's novel, that is, the narrative irregularities characteristic of the modernist bildungsroman derive from the other side of Bakhtin's equation: "man growing."
At the end of the nineteenth century, empirical research into the physiological nature of the child's growing body made it increasingly difficult to project narrative order onto youthful experience. The first popular book-length study of psychological development during childhood, William Preyer's Mental Development in the Child (first published in English in 1893), emphasizes the importance of sensual experiences during infancy and early childhood. Although the infant's brain is not fully developed, Preyer observes, it brings with it into the world the physiological capacity to have "feelings of the body--e.g., of pain and pleasure, discomfort and comfort, feelings of a general character--in a word, general feelings" (16). (8) Since the infant's capacity to feel and think is limited, these "general feelings" are not distinct from each other as they are in adulthood. They act on the infant like "waves pouring over one another" (17) and are most active when the child is nursing. However inchoate, the infants feelings establish the groundwork for the emergence of the child's personality during later stages of development.
However, as with Preyer's, theoretical models for childhood development continued to postulate an ideal of self-cultivation and to organize youth into teleological narrative paradigms even as the focus of developmental psychology shifted from the mind to the body. Preyer believes educational methods should take account of the child's first sensory experiences: the "choleric" (28) child can be "cured" by "rational training," and "children by no means disposed to such abnormal freaks are transformed for the worse" (29) by mistreatment from family members or nurses. The "education of the human being," Preyer concludes, "begins in the first hour of his existence" (56); and the "greatest defect in our European education at the close of the nineteenth century" (40), as he saw it, was a lack of "physiological training" during early childhood and an excess of "unphysiological instruction" (41) during later periods of development.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the novelistic genre that originally arose from an Enlightenment ideal of self-formation sustained the idea of natural education that new research on childhood development was calling into question. The American psychologist G. Stanley Hall's massive two-volume study of adolescent development, Adolescence, Its Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion, and Education (1904), demonstrates the extent to which literary and scientific paradigms for youth had converged. Hall began his career as an English professor at Clark University, and his scientific interest in adolescent development grew out of his appreciation for European novels about youth. An entire chapter of Adolescence is devoted to the treatment of adolescence in works of literature and biography. Writing before the popularization of the term "bildungsroman" in Anglophone literary criticism, he concludes his discussion of "ephebic literature" by suggesting that it should be "recognized as a class by itself" (589). Hall prizes the didactic power of "ephebic literature" and believes that it should be "individually prescribed for the reading of the young, for whom it has a singular zest and is a true stimulus and corrective."
It is no surprise that Hall singles out for special praise Goethe's autobiographical writings and Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship Years:
Both together present a very unique type of adolescence, the elaborate story of which defies epitome. From the puppet craze well on into his precocious university life it was his passion to explore the widest ranges of experience and then to reflect, moralize, or poetize upon them. Perhaps no one studied the nascent stages of his own life and elaborated their every incident with such careful observation and analysis. His peculiar diathesis enabled him to conserve their freshness on to full maturity, when he gave them literary form. Most lack power to fully utilize their own experience even for practical self-knowledge and guidance, but with Goethe nothing is wasted from which self-culture could be extracted. (581)
What Hall appreciates most of all is Goethe's ability to make his youth seem both unique and paradigmatic. The quality that Hall praises in Goethe bears a marked resemblance to the description of the bildungsroman's paradoxical narrative effect in Moretti's The Way of the World. Goethes writings organize every youthful experience into a narrative of self-formation that is at once realistic and purposefully organized, and this is possible because of Goethe's uncommon ability to remember and analyze his experience of adolescence. Wilhelm Meister extracts moral and poetic meanings from youth without diminishing its "freshness" or uniqueness.
Of course, this is precisely what Hall sets out to accomplish in Adolescence. Hall theorizes that individuals repeat in miniature the evolution of the human species as they transform from children into adults and that, like an evolving species, they change for the purpose of self-preservation. (9) Reasoning that every element of an organism is the expression of the genetic will to survive, Hall likens all human behaviors to the thrashing flagella of male reproductive cells: "Every physical process and every act of life may be regarded as but the wriggle of flagella to bring these elements to their highest maturity before and after their union with ova, to effect that union under the most favorable terms" (418). According to this idiosyncratic analogy, every aspect of human personality and behavior can be reduced to the drive of the species to reproduce itself. Equating social maturity (full membership in human society) and sexual maturity (full reproductive capability), Hall replaces the formation of the nation state with the evolution of the human species as the organizing telos of self-formation. As humans progressed from primitive societies to modern civilization, he argues, so the individual progresses from childhood to mature adulthood. Adapting Bakhtin's formulation, we might say that Halls Adolescence shows "man growing in natural-historical time." By organizing scientific data to fit his evolutionary model for development, Hall aims to present a detailed and factually verifiable picture of youth that also promotes an idealized notion of self-cultivation. By 1904, when Hall published Adolescence, however, research into patterns of sexual development indicated that both normal and abnormal sexual impulses were fairly common during childhood. As Hall acknowledges, masturbation and non-normative desire were manifestly a common feature of childhood and adolescence, but he attributes the pervasiveness of such so-called perverse desire to the conditions of modern urban life. Maintaining a teleologically organized narrative paradigm for youth thus entails the policing of non-normative sexuality, and Hall accordingly pleads for rigorous measures to control adolescent sexuality (468-69).
During the first decade of the twentieth century a new (and newly prominent) generation of sex researchers including Dessoir, Moll, Ellis, and Freud shifted the focus of the scientific debate about sexual development from pathological to so-called normal sexual behaviors. Writing in 1903, Ellis observes that "little or no endeavor has been made to study the development of normal sexual emotions" and that "nearly every writer seems to take for granted that he and his readers are so familiar with all the facts of normal sex psychology that any detailed statement is uncalled for" ("Appendix" 277). Ellis makes the "facts of normal sex psychology" the signature concern of his Studies in the Psychology of Sex, opening the first volume with a study of female modesty and developing, in the second volume, his theory of tumescence and detumescence as a framework for understanding all forms of human sexual behavior.
The most famous example of this paradigm shift, however, is Sigmund Freuds Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905). Calling attention to the frequency of ostensibly non-normative sexual behaviors during childhood among subjects who would grow up to be so-called normal individuals, Freud proposed that children do not develop conventional sexual object choices naturally but rather as a result of external social pressures. In the essay concerning "sexual aberrations" (148), Freud directly addresses the sexological debate about the cause of what were seen as perversions and arrives at two related conclusions. First, that sexual impulses are not naturally directed toward persons of the opposite sex; instead, they are "merely soldered together." And, second, that the sexual instinct is a composite of "several motive forces," that "sexual instinct itself may be no simple thing, but put together from components which have come apart again in the perversions" (162). With the increasing popularity of psychoanalysis as a theory of mind, Freud's writings on the sexual life of the child overshadowed those of his contemporaries. It is important to remember, however, that Freud's Three Essays was only one contribution to an ongoing and rapidly expanding debate about non-normative sexual behaviors.
The first comprehensive, book-length treatment of the subject, Moll's The Sexual Life of the Child, appeared in German in 1909 and in English translation in 1912. (10) More conservative than Freud and generally skeptical about Freud's theory of infantile sexuality, Moll draws on a variety of scientific sources in addition to his own research in order to demonstrate the changing consensus of opinion about childhood sexuality among European psychologists. Building on research by Max Dessoir, he divides childhood into three stages: the "neutral stage," the "undifferentiated stage" (which begins at "various ages"), and an unnamed third stage, coinciding with puberty, during which the child's sexuality becomes "differentiated" (62). As Moll explains, the "principal characteristic" of the "undifferentiated period" is "indicated in its name": "the direction of the impulse is not yet completely differentiated." Moll describes the sexual impulse during this "extremely important" stage:
It oscillates to and fro, and depends upon the external objects which happen to be in the vicinity. This undifferentiated stage is of profound importance; and owing to the fact that its existence has been ignored in the study of sexual perversions, great confusion has arisen. During the undifferentiated period, it may happen that quite normal children exhibit homosexual excitement, whose importance is apt to be greatly over-estimated by their relatives and others. (60)
For Moll, the sexual impulses of the "undifferentiated" child are so abnormal that they defy pathological categorization. The child's sexual impulse might involve homosexual desire, heterosexual desire, sadomasochistic tendencies, or "disordered ideas" like the desire to touch another person's saliva "or some other excretory product" (61). But the presence of "perverse sensations" during childhood bears no relation to such sensations in adulthood: "Beyond question, in the great majority of cases, the 'perverse' sentiments of childhood subsequently disappear spontaneously" (62). In Moll's model, the "undifferentiated" stage can occur at any age and its effects are not permanent; it simply stands outside the "normal" course of development. Indeed, this model for development requires that there be no causal link between the "undifferentiated" and "differentiated" stages. If there were such a connection, the perverse pleasures of childhood would have to be more than temporary aberrations.
To compensate for the sense of narrative continuity his theory lacks, Moll turns to an example from literature, discussing at length a homoerotic scene in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, the first of several case studies he presents in which children exhibit "perverse" sexual feelings during childhood yet grow up to be "normal" adults. As "a beautiful example of the undifferentiated sexual impulse" Moll quotes the twelfth chapter of Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Journeyman Years where Wilhelm recalls "one of the earliest incidents in his youth" (62): after swimming in the nude with an older boy and "dressing quickly," he recounts, "we stood beside each other with all barriers broken down, our spirits were drawn closely together, and with ardent kisses we swore eternal friendship" (63). Like the German psychologist Karl Groos, Moll finds in this passage "a delicate intimation of sexual sensibility" (63-64). It is not necessary for Moll to remind his readers that, after ardent love affairs with other women, in the last book of Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship Years, Wilhelm marries Natalia. Citing Wilhelm Meister's vaguely homosexual encounter as his first and longest example of non-normative sexual feelings during childhood, Moll draws on Wilhelm Meister's status as the quintessential wayward-turned-normal youth. If Wilhelm Meister exhibited homosexual tendencies during childhood, Moll seems to imply, then any child may have homosexual experiences and yet become a "normal" adult.
Sexual self-formation in Sons and Lovers
Although their theories of development differed in fundamental ways, Freud, Moll, and their contemporaries together contributed to a fundamental change in perspective in the scientific study of childhood sexuality. When sexologists had focused on the cause of sexual perversion in adulthood, they retroactively parsed the experience of youth into stages of "normal" development, from the vantage point of adulthood. When they made "normal" sexual development their primary subject of inquiry, however, they were led to reevaluate childhood experience on its own terms, without deeming specific case studies normal or abnormal in relation to a "normal" or "abnormal" adult outcome.
Sons and Lovers carries out in novelistic form the same shift in perspective that Freud and Moll perform on a theoretical level. In the 1913 "Foreword to Sons and Lovers," Lawrence implies that he has reversed the relationship between discourse and the body: "John, the beloved disciple, says, 'The Word was made Flesh.' But why should he turn things round? The women simply go on bearing talkative sons, as an answer. 'The Flesh was made Word'" (467). Although Lawrence adopts a biblical vocabulary here, his meaning is not exactly religious: he seems to suggest that his novel has reversed--or at least attempts to reverse--the relationship between discourse (the Word) and the growing body (the Flesh). The implications of this statement become clearer read alongside other comments by Lawrence about his novel. In a letter to Garnett, for instance, Lawrence responds in advance to his editor's criticisms about the novel's lack of form. "Read my novel," Lawrence declares, "It's a great novel. If you can't see the development--which is slow like growth--I can" (49). Instead of projecting a teleological narrative of development onto the story of the protagonist's growth, as Garnett might expect in a semi-autobiographical novel like Sons and Lovers, Lawrence's novel tries to captures in narrative form the primarily physiological processes of growth by which the subject actually develops.
Sons and Lovers explores the formative effects of the experiences of its protagonist, Paul Morel, during infancy and early childhood. This is one of the novel's most striking innovations. To be sure, some bildungsromane mark the beginning of the main character's development relatively early in life, but--even considering the notable exception of Tristram Shandy--seldom do novels of formation begin before their protagonist has formed a conscious sense of selfhood. Great Expectations, for instance, opens with a memorable childhood experience, Pip's encounter with Magwitch. Yet this traumatic experience sets in motion the rest of the narrative precisely because it pits the protagonist's will (he needs to supply the criminal with food) against social responsibility (he must steal this food from his family) for the first time. Sons and Lovers locates the beginning of the story of Paul Morel's development before he has developed a sufficient level of awareness to possess a conscious will of his own. In the traditional bildungsroman, the willful desires of the protagonist are assimilated into the social order through a series of dialectically structured conflicts between individual desire and social responsibility. By including pre-conscious experiences during infancy and early childhood, Sons and Lovers shifts the narrative focus of its protagonist's development to the emergence of the subject within the growing body.
Paul's temperament rises from non-verbal, partially conscious sensory impressions that occur during early childhood and infancy, and, before he is born. In one of the novel's most well-known scenes, after Walter Morel locks Gertrude out of the house, Lawrence dramatizes the physiological origins of the protagonist's personality. As Gertrude replays the fight with her husband in her mind, the narrator describes the effect of the mother's emotional turbulence on the child she carries in her womb:
She walked down the garden path, trembling in every limb, while the child boiled within her. For a while, she could not control her consciousness; mechanically she went over the last scene, then over it again, certain phrases, certain moments coming each time like a brand red hot, down on her soul: and each time she enacted again the past hour, each time the brand came down at the same points, till the mark was burnt in, and the pain burnt out, and at last she came to herself. She must have been half an hour in this delirious condition.... Mrs Morel leaned on the garden gate, looking out, and she lost herself awhile. She did not know what she thought. Except for a slight feeling of sickness, and her consciousness in the child, her self melted out like scent into the shiny, pale air. After a time, the child too melted with her in the mixing-pot of moonlight, and she rested with the hills and lilies and houses, all swum together in a kind of swoon. (33-34)
Although the metaphors here are somewhat confusing, they strikingly illustrate a simultaneously emotional and physical bond between mother and child. Part of the same body, Paul and Gertrude experience psychological trauma together as a transfer of energy, images of water and heat figuring their intermingling selves: the heat of the mother's anger "boil[s] " the child within her; the child's boiling consciousness, in turn, seems to deepen the psychological impact of the event, the memories "branding" her soul; and, finally, as they fall asleep, mother and child "melt" into the air, like water boiled into steam. At this point, Paul Morel is not entirely a separate entity from his mother: Gertrude's "self" melts into the air before Paul, "the child," does, yet "her consciousness" is "in the child." Images of boiling and evaporation suggest in the child's incipient consciousness a kind of kinetic materiality. Thoughts and feelings enter Paul like substances, elements of the physical connection to the mother and thus embodied. Insofar as Paul has a "will" when he is a fetus, that "will" is a physiological phenomenon.
This scene thus establishes a physiological level of being in Paul's character that is not subject to the progressively structured developmental narrative typically found in novels of formation. Paul's infant body bears the mark of the suffering he endured with his mother in the womb, and this mark strengthens the bond between mother and child: he "had a peculiar pucker on the forehead, as if something had startled its tiny consciousness at birth. When Mrs Morel looked at the infant, something hurt her, inside" (45); Later, in response to her again noticing "the peculiar knitting of the baby's brows, and the peculiar heaviness of its eyes, as if it were trying to understand something that was pain" (50), Gertrude "felt as if the navel string that had connected its frail little body with hers had not been broken" (51). Such scenes suggest that the suffering of Paul's mother while she carries him as a fetus and nurses him as an infant indelibly marks him. Visceral, non-verbal feelings and impressions--surprise, pain, desire, fear--establish the thoughtful temperament and depressive personality that come to define his character as a young man and an aspiring artist. As he grows older, the unusual knitting of Paul's brows disappears temporarily only to reappear during times of stress, as when his relationship with Miriam is coming to an end, and his mother sees the same facial expression in a slightly diminished form: "There was a perpetual little knitting of his brows, such as she had seen when he was a small baby, and which had been gone for many years" (335).
The physiological aspect of Paul Morel's self, as it is dramatized in these scenes, opens up a domain of character similar to the one Lawrence describes to Edward Garnett in a well-known letter dated 5 June 1914. There, Lawrence defends his idiosyncratic method of characterization as a deliberate break with a tradition of nineteenth-century realism associated in Lawrence's mind with Russian novelists. Characters in "Turguenev, and in Tolstoi, and in Dostoievski" (182), are conceived as existing "in a certain Lawrence's Bildungsroman and the Science of Sexual Development moral scheme" that, no matter how interesting the characters that inhabit it, is "dull, old, dead" (183).This dualism is rejected in favor of a radically materialist conception of the self:
You mustn't look in my novel for the old stable ego of the character. There is another ego, according to whose action the individual is unrecognizable, and passes through, as it were, allotropic states which it needs a deeper sense than any we've been used to exercise, to discover are states of the same single radically-unchanged element. (Like as diamond and coal are the same pure single element of carbon. The ordinary novel would trace the history of the diamond--but I say "diamond, what! This is carbon." And my diamond might be coal or soot, and my theme is carbon.) (78)
Lawrence's metaphor for his conception of literary character is drawn from chemistry. Allotropy is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "the existence, especially in a solid state, of two or more crystalline or molecular structural forms of an element." The element of the self that fascinates Lawrence is the material level of consciousness--separate from the "old stable ego" of nineteenth-century realism, from the way a person "feels"--that remains the same even as the individual appears to grow and change.
In this sense, the story of Paul Morel's frustrated sexual development emplots the notion of childhood sexuality, developed by Freud and Moll, wherein sexual feelings are not organized around a specific biological function and do not proceed according to a fixed chronological sequence. The unconscious, physiological aspect of Paul's self that emerges in the womb when his mother has been locked out of the house becomes the "radically-unchanged element" underlying his character even as he proceeds through various external stages of development. The unusual knitting of Paul's brows, then, is the external expression of an element of the self that, outside of any narrative organization, makes for a radical continuity: his "knit brows" are not a sign of regression or immaturity, but rather one state among several possible states in which Paul's character can exist. As he gets older, the "radically-unchanged element" of his character surfaces most visibly and forcefully in his sexual life. Accordingly, Paul's awakening sexual impulses are figured in language akin to the images of boiling and evaporation that portray his nascent consciousness in the womb: "The whole of his blood seemed to burst into flame, and he could scarcely breathe" (215);"His blood was concentrated like a flame in his chest.... There were flashes in his blood" (216).
Sons and Lovers does involve the ingredients of a classic bildungsroman narrative: a youth born in a provincial locale possesses a unique talent; he cultivates that talent in difficult circumstances; and he gradually receives the recognition that this talent merits. But what at first might appear as a fairly straightforward narrative of upward mobility instead becomes the story of Paul's incomplete emergence through a network of erotic relations. As the social and geographical purview of Paul's experiences expand, a crucial element of his self remains confined within the family home. His siblings grow older, leave home, and take on recognizably adult identities, but Paul does not feel a difference in himself between youth and young adulthood: "Paul felt life changing around him. The conditions of youth were gone. Now, it was a home of grown-up people. ... He was restless to follow [his brother and sister] .Yet home was for him beside his mother. And still, there was something else, something outside, something he wanted" (289). As the novel's central narrative conflict, this tension between Paul's evolving social identity (his desire for "something outside") and his continued dependence on maternal love ("home was for him beside his mother") supplants the story of his struggle to succeed as an artist, so that Paul proceeds through childhood and adolescence allotropically, shifting from one state to another like an element changing its chemical state. In this, Sons and Lovers thus also registers an important conceptual problem in new theories of development that Lawrence had heard about from Frieda Weekley: the absence of a clear narrative connection between the dynamic and unruly impulses shaping character in childhood and the stable, narrowly defined identity expected of adults.
Sex researchers address the apparent discontinuity between unruly impulses of youth and the normative sexuality of adulthood as a theoretical problem. Freud, for instance, studies the polymorphous sexuality of children to develop a therapeutic practice that can treat neurosis among adults, while Moll simply accepts the progression from "undifferentiated" to "differentiated" sexuality as natural fact of life. In Sons and Lovers, by contrast, this theoretical problem emerges as a concrete--and urgent--social problem, arising from a historically specific set of circumstances. Paul Morel represents an entire class of young men whose idealized expectations and exaggerated sense of propriety critically disrupts their sexual lives. Wondering why he is still a virgin at twenty-three, Paul speculates:
It seemed as if virginity were a positive force, which fought and won in both of them.... He looked round. A good many of the nicest men he knew were like himself, bound in by their own virginity, which they could not break out of. They were so sensitive to their women, that they would go without them for ever rather than do them a hurt, an injustice. Being the sons of mothers whose husbands had blundered rather brutally through their feminine sanctities, they were themselves too diffident and shy. They could easier deny themselves than incur any reproach from a woman. For a woman was like their mother, and they were full of the sense of their mother. They preferred themselves to suffer the misery of celibacy, rather than risk the other person. (323)
Paul's thoughts here serve a selfish purpose: he needs to justify the emotional pain he thinks he will cause Miriam by having sex with her. By pathologizing his respect for Miriam's sensitivity into a psychological condition shared by "many of the nicest men he knew," Paul can think of the consequences for Miriam as the necessary price for his liberation from that pathology, "the misery of celibacy." Yet Paul's suspicion is grounded in an insight that holds true, at least according to the logic of the novel. The "nicest men" in Paul's generation think about sex in a markedly different way than their parents. In breaking out of the virginity that binds him, Paul wants to satisfy his sexual desire for Miriam without becoming like his father, one of the husbands who blunder through "feminine sanctity." Of course, Paul fails to achieve "real passion" precisely because he balks at blundering and brutal behavior--and, indeed, because he feels compelled to find reasoned justifications for his desire. His internalization of middle-class values--his belief in "feminine sanctities"--limits his ability to enjoy the primal, transformative experience of sexual coition that, the novel implies (and Lawrence argues explicitly in later writings), is the true endpoint of development.
Sexual experiences in Sons and Lovers bring to the surface an element of the self about which characters are only partially aware. When Paul has sex with Clara Dawes, the experience is transformative:
As a rule, when he started love-making, the emotion was strong enough to carry with it everything, reason, soul, blood, in a great sweep, like the Trent carries bodily its black-swirls and intertwinings, noiselessly. Gradually the little criticisms, the little sensations were lost, thought also went, everything borne along in one flood. He became, not a man with a mind, but a great instinct. His hands were like creatures, living; his limbs, his body were all life and consciousness, subject to no will of his, but living in themselves. Just as he was, so it seemed the vigorous wintry stars were strong also with life. He and they struck with the same pulse of fire.... Everything rushed along in living beside him, everything was still, perfect in itself, along with him. This wonderful stillness in each thing in itself, while it was being borne along in a very ecstasy of living, seemed the highest point of bliss. (408)
This fracturing of Paul's subjectivity coincides with what seems like a rupture in the temporal fabric of reality, as everything goes on "living" while exuding a "wonderful stillness." At first, this evacuation of individual subjectivity seems like a metamorphosis, the expected culmination of a Lawrentian narrative of self-formation, an ecstatic merging of self and world through sexual contact. Yet the experience is ephemeral. Paul and Clara struggle to recapture "that once when the peewits had called" but their attempts to make the experience routine, "through mechanical effort" fail, as they mistakenly attribute the intensity of their experience to its immediate circumstances, the proximity of nature and the thrill of sex in public.
What Paul experienced the time "when the peewits had called" as "the highest point of bliss" could be understood as the manifestation in his consciousness of the will of the species to survive that, for Hall, drives the adolescents sexual development. As Paul's mental consciousness dissolves into the constituent parts of his body, that body has a will of its own, separate from his conscious mind: "His hands were like creatures, living; his limbs, his body were all life and consciousness, subject to no will of his, but living in themselves." With the illusion of self-control temporarily removed, the rhythm and vigor of sexual intercourse brings the lovers closer to the living world around them, and Paul's being harmonizes with the stars: "they struck with the same pulse of fire." While, like Hall, Lawrence presents sex as fusing the individual to a larger force, in Lawrence's novel, this force is not identical to the evolutionary will-to-survive of the species. The "pulse of fire" in Paul, Clara, the distant stars, and the bracken-frond "stiff" near Paul's eyes is not explicitly procreative (and Paul and Clara produce no child). A force that involves "everything," it intensifies the present moment, free of any pressure of future selves willing themselves into being. Moreover, Paul's erotic experience exceeds sexual intercourse per se. Even in the womb, his merging with the world is represented as a kind of erotic encounter: the night the pregnant Gertrude gets locked out of the house he "melted with her in the mixing-pot of moonlight, and she rested with the hills and lilies and houses, all swum together in a kind of swoon" (34). Expanding the range of erotic feeling in the novel ultimately entails an optimistic metaphysics of sexuality, bringing people into contact with forces that transcend the self, but not at the individual's expense. In this way, Lawrence seeks a form of sexual maturity that, rather than simply coordinating the individual's desire with the collective desire of a larger group--the social order of the bildungsroman or the species grouping described in functionalist accounts of development--realizes instead the individual's multiplicity of desires to the fullest possible extent.
Paul Morel inhabits a world in which the child's growing body is forcibly shaped to fit a rigidly constructed and outmoded ideal of development. At Jordan's factory, Paul sorts and translates orders for devices and apparel designed not only to manage the body's recovery after surgery but also to shape the growing bodies of children and adolescents. One day soon after he has started working at the factory, Paul's supervisor, Mr. Pappleworth notices he is slouching: "Why don't you hold your shoulders straighter?" he asks; and he promptly fits Paul with a "special brace for keeping the shoulders square" (136). This factory is part of an industry devoted to fitting bodies, in a very literal way, to a predetermined model for development originating in medical discourse--the institutional apotheosis of an idea of development Lawrence would have encountered both in nineteenth-century novels of formation and as an aspiring teacher studying modern educational methods. In his later writings, Lawrence blames these methods and the establishment of compulsory elementary and secondary education for disrupting the development of a generation of English men and women, arguing that: standardized pedagogical techniques discourage individual thinking; compulsory elementary education stimulates mental consciousness at the expense of bodily development; and coeducation defuses the dynamic conflict between the sexes that is necessary for healthy sexual relationships. Everywhere Lawrence sees the modern child tortured by "precocious" and "secret" sexuality, tragically isolated by "its own roused, inflamed sex, its own shame and masturbation" (Psychoanalysis 146).
Dramatizing the failure of this paradigm of development, Sons and Lovers reverses the conventional ending of the nineteenth-century bildungsroman. At the end of Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship Years, in the library of the tower the protagonist reads a transcription of his own story and, in this transcription, the developmental narrative implicit in his youth is made explicit. Moretti glosses the implications of this scene:
In other words, the novel we are reading has been written by the Tower Wilhelm, and only by coming into its possession does he assume full possession and control of his life. In the parchment, all ambiguity disappears, the confusing succession of events acquires a logic and direction, the "sense of the whole" is finally visible. And as for the Tower, this episode confers upon it a double legitimation: it has succeeded in generating an exemplary Bildung like Wilhelm's--and also in writing a paradigmatic text like The Years of Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister. (22)
Learning that the narrator is actually the Tower, the reader, like Wilhelm, recognizes that the Tower has been coordinating and recording his Bildung all along. The ending of Lawrence's novel--and, indeed, the postscript to Freud's case study of Little Hans--creates the opposite effect. Paul proceeds through childhood and adolescence allotropically, shifting from one state to another like a single element changing its chemical state; but the leap from youth to maturity would mean the emergence of an entirely new element, an elemental change of substance that Paul does not undergo.
Sons and Lovers makes visible--and seeks to manipulate--a link between normativity and narrativity taken for granted before the early twentieth century but becoming increasingly untenable as sexologists started to question the paradigms for sexual development and behavior that previous generations of sex researchers had assumed to be natural. Lawrence's first major novel, that is, proceeds from the recognition, made possible by his encounters with continental sexology and his continued engagement with European literary traditions, that narratives of self-formation are always cultural artifacts. Necessarily, stories that trace the path from youth to adulthood are constructed retrospectively, and for this reason narrative paradigms for youth, in literary as well as scientific discourse, can never provide what is so often desired of them: certain knowledge of the origins and future of our identity. In this sense, the stories of Little Hans and Paul Morel, emerging during a period of great disagreement about the nature of youth and its relationship to adulthood, highlight the artificiality and oppressive power of the narrative paradigms projected onto youth--projections that attempt to interpret and normalize its "intrinsically boundless dynamism," the threat that, with Moretti, we might associate with modernity itself.
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(1.) I classify Sigmund Freud as a sexologist because his early works, most notably "Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality" (1905), address ongoing sexological debates about the nature of sexual perversion and draw heavily on recent research by psychologists and sexologists on childhood sexual experiences. Although Freud was always among the most prominent European sexual scientists, and although psychoanalysis would in the 1920s and 1930s come to dominate the scientific discourse around sex, Freud was, during the 1900s and 1910s, only one figure in a crowded field of European sex researchers.
(2.) Although new teleological developmental models emerged and soon rose to prominence, the discovery of non-normative childhood sexuality by Freud, Moll, and their contemporaries did have lasting historical effects. It discredited the previously accepted paradigm for development and led, in turn, to the formation of a new conception of normative sexuality as a psychological state achieved with difficulty and continually subject to perversion. This new understanding of childhood sexual development prepared the way for the modern idea of heterosexuality as a mode of identity that is normal yet extremely fragile. For more on the history of heterosexuality (and Freud's contribution to it), see Jonathan Ned Katz's The Invention of Heterosexuality.
(3.) My understanding of the social and political force of narrative is informed by philosophical examinations of the ethical dimension of narrative carried out by a number of thinkers, including Alasdair MacIntyre, Paul Ricoeur, and Judith Butler. MacIntyre points to narrative as a necessary prerequisite for apprehending the nature of "a good life." For a person's life to be evaluated from an ethical standpoint, he argues, the actions that together constitute that life must first be organized sequentially through narrative. Ricoeur emphasizes the fragility of narrative identity: the task of recognizing oneself is bound up with the constant struggle to be recognized by others and to avoid misrecognizing others. What results is a narrative identity that is continually changing, as the person to which the identity is attributed continues to act and becomes enmeshed in social relations. One can learn to narrate oneself, Ricoeur writes, but "learning to narrate oneself is also learning how to narrate oneself in other ways" (103); the temporal dimension of the self and its interconnectedness with others render narrative identity unstable. Butler offers an entirely different understanding of the instability of narrative and its relation to ethics. She attempts to ground an ethics of personal identity in the limits of self-knowledge, in the inability of one to give a full account of oneself, on what is non-narrativizable. "An ability to affirm what is contingent and incoherent in oneself" Butler proposes, "may allow one to affirm others who may or may not mirror one's own constitution" (41).
(4.) Lawrence spent several years working as a teacher before he became a professional writer, and the system of education in England underwent a series of dramatic changes during his lifetime: in 1870, the Elementary Education Act required that children ages five through twelve be educated in schools supported by local taxes and managed by a democratically elected board; thirty-two years later the 1902 Education Act extended public support and government regulation to include secondary schools as well. Lawrence started attending a "Board School" four months before his fourth birthday. The experience was traumatic. In an essay titled "Enslaved by Civilization," Lawrence writes,
I think I belong to the first generation of Englishmen that was really broken. The boys of my generation ... were sent at the ripe age of five to Board schools, British schools, national schools, and ... we were forced to knuckle under.... For wives, schoolmasters, and employers of labour it is perhaps very nice to have men well broken in. But for a nation, for England, it is a disaster. (158-59)
Lawrence believed that, by focusing exclusively on the mind, conventional educational methods obstructed natural patterns of physical growth and social development. This is what has "broken" the men of Lawrence's generation.
(5.) At the end of Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship Years, the novel generally regarded as the foundational text in the European bildungsroman tradition, the protagonist Wilhelm Meister joins the secret order of the Tower and discovers in the order's library a transcription, on parchment, of his own life story, making explicit the developmental narrative implicit in his biography. "In the parchment, all ambiguity disappears," Moretti explains, "the confusing succession of events acquires a logic and direction, the 'sense of the whole' is finally visible" (22). When Wilhelm Meister reads his story in the parchment, it reveals that the community Wilhelm was destined to join has been guiding his development all along; experiences that seemed disordered and accidental were in fact a carefully planned apprenticeship. As Goethe told Johann Peter Eckermann, Wilhelm Meister "seems to say nothing more than that man, despite all his follies and errors, being led by a higher hand, reaches some happy goal at last" (84).
(6.) Castle suggests that the modernists' "failure to conform to the strict generic demands of the bildungsroman form" should be understood as a "successful resistance to the institutionalization of self-cultivation" in the bureaucratic nation-state and an attempt to revive "the Enlightenment concept of aesthetico-spiritual Bildung" (1). Boes demonstrates that the temporal discontinuities of modern history force modernist writers to create "syncopated selves": "protagonists who are tossed back and forth between competing historical 'rhythms' and thus also between non-synchronous experiences" (9). Esty locates "a significant symbolic relationship between uneven development in colonial modernity (in the post-Berlin Conference era, 1885-1940) and antidevelopmental plots in canonical fiction on the same period" (72).
(7.) It should be noted that Paul's elder brother, William Morel, dies of a fever he contracted after examining a cargo of sugar in the Port of London.
(8.) This book, published in the "International Education Series," abridges Preyer's larger and more difficult Psychogenesis for a non-specialized audience.
(9.) A central figure in the history of American psychology, Hall founded the American Journal of Psychology in 1887 and became the first president of the American Psychological Association in 1892. Adolescence synthesized Hall's first-hand experience of adolescence as a teacher with research culled from a variety of scientific fields. The book quickly became the most widely influential study of childhood development of the early twentieth century, and Hall has been credited with the invention of the modern concept of adolescence. Indeed, some historians identify Adolescence as a watershed moment in the history of youth culture in America and Europe.
(10.) Moll's first chapter provides an excellent survey of extant scientific literature on the topic of childhood sexuality. In this survey, Moll mentions and partially disagrees with Freud: "But what this writer [Freud] describes as an indication of infantile sexuality, viz., certain sucking movements, has, in my opinion, nothing to do with the sexual life of the child--as little to do with sexuality as have the functions of the stomach or any other non-genital organ" (14). In a later section of the book, Moll takes issue with Freuds "general sexual etiology": "I have been forced more and more to the conclusion that, notwithstanding all the other advantages of the psycho-analytic method, the importance of the factor of sexual experiences in the causation of disease has been greatly overestimated by Freud" (278-79). Although Moll disagrees with Freud that common infantile behaviors like thumb-sucking are sexual in nature, he accepts that prepubescent children experience sexual feelings in some form, whether or not they are aware of it.
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|Title Annotation:||D.H. Lawrence|
|Publication:||Twentieth Century Literature|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2014|
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