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Love, Sex, and Enlightenment

"he knew her, he knew her meaning, without understanding" (94).
D. H. Lawrence's The Rainbow (1915)


Responses to Path 2 prompts should deliver a structured, narrow argument in only 400-500 words, one you publish on Blackboard by 11:59 p.m. on Friday. Arguments should evince creativity and organization, support their claims with detailed evidence ( incl. page citations), and show signs of careful revision. Remember too that whether I happen to agree or not with your thesis matters little, as long as it is sufficiently supported and logically, persuasively rendered.

Some of the strongest essays will incorporate ideas from path 2 essays written by your peers and/or pertinent path 1 discussions and topics, though neither is required.

Week Two: The Rainbow (1915), chps 1-3 (5-95)

1. is the Brangwen women’s desire for that “higher being” (8) experienced by the Vicar (and not the Brangwen men) a desire for spiritual growth, the foreign and exotic, improved socioeconomic standing, fuller knowledge of the world, or something else?

2. does Tom Brangwen eventually attain that desirable proximity to “things outside himself which he [had] not known fully” but had strongly desired (48)?

3. what about England makes it an appropriate country in which to settle down following the death of Lydia’s husband? Why might she remain there instead of moving back to Poland?

4. is romantic ardor, for Lawrence, mixed with a desire for the foreign? Do his characters pursue the opposite sex primarily to attain what seems unfamiliar and exotic?

5. does the marriage of Tom and Lydia, as described in chapters 1-3, resemble that of Tom’s parents (11)? What of Lydia’s marriage to Paul Lensky—does her relationship with Tom reproduce that experienced with Paul?

6. are Tom Brangwen and the widowed Mrs. Lensky equally matched during their courtship, or does one play the passive receiver of the other’s aggressive affection?

7. does Tom place Lydia on a pedestal above him, a footstool beneath him, or upon the same platform on which he himself stands--does Tom approach her as an equal?

8. Lawrence’s narrator likens the growing intimacy of Tom and Lydia to both a birth and a death (44). Does one analogy describe the whole of their relationship better than the other?

9. does the narrative suggest that Lydia’s and Tom’s problems with intimacy derive from choices both of them make, or does the narrative implicitly blame one spouse more than the other?

10. does D. H. Lawrence’s narrator promote the notion that sex is a kind of holy experience, or interrogate it?

11. does Lawrence configure sexual intimacy as, in its healthiest state, productive of an egalitarian dynamic?

12. does Lawrence configure sexual desire as equally strong in men and women?

13. do Tom and Lydia desire sexual intimacy for similar reasons?

14. does the narrator consider the developing intimacy between Tom and his stepdaughter Anna to be inevitable, necessary, and/or healthy?

15. does D. H. Lawrence’s sexualized description of Nature (6-7) privilege either the masculine or the feminine? Does it arrogate more power to one sex more than the other?

16. according to Lawrence, does giving oneself to the beloved dramatically alter one’s sense of self?

17. is Anna’s response to Nat, the cretin, predictable given what we have learned about her to this point, or surprising (87)?

18. are physical and emotional violence always destructive agents within Lawrence’s tale? Do they ever serve a generative function?

19. identify passages where Lawrence references something with a negative valence to describe the intensity of an inherently positive experience.

20. is the narrator’s description of Tom’s experience in school (13-16) an important factor to consider when assessing the professional and/or personal decisions he makes as an adult?

Berthe Morisot with Bouquet of Violets
"Berthe Morisot with a Bouqet of Violets" (1872)
Edouard Manet

Dr. Paul Marchbanks