D. H. Lawrence’s STUDIES IN CLASSIC AMERICAN LITERATURE, at first glance a puzzling book, survives nonetheless for its powerful insights into our literature. It is puzzling because of its style, so informal, so impulsive, and so seemingly self-contradictory. It is full of exclamations, words all in capital letters, choppy sentences. But it is impressive in the great task it undertakes, and it will leave the reader shaken with new ideas about our literature, upset enough to force him to a reconsideration and re-evaluation not only of American classics, but also of the quality of the American experience. Lawrence believed that criticism, like literature in general should be written with passion and with moral purpose.
In these essays the reader will find controlling ideas familiar in other books by Lawrence. Lawrence applies to American literature his apparatus of the deeper soul and the blood-impulses, and to it also he brings his sensitive response to nature and his appreciation of honesty and delicacy in the description of nature. One can see the preoccupations of Lawrence’s thought in his key words: democracy, love, sex, death, and savagery. Thus, bringing to our classics his own convictions, Lawrence sees American literature in a fresh way, as an outsider looking with a special perspective.
In this extended essay the works of eight American authors are studied: three novelists (Cooper, Hawthorne, Melville), three prose writers...
(The entire section is 1735 words.)
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