Sunday, May 28, 2006

Literary Pioneer Of Sexual Liberation

Perhaps fittingly, it was Lady Chatterly's Lover that brought D.H.Lawrence to the attention of young people in the '60s. The book had never been published in England, since Lawrence, had known it would never make it past the censors. Instead, he published it privately in Italy and distributed it himself. But in 1959 Penguin decided to bring out and English edition of the book.

It was imediatelly declared obscene and the publisher was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act. The resulting trial received enormous publicity, which of course, brought Lawrence to the attention of a mass market. When the book was finally delcared not to be obscene, it became a bestseller. Lawrence became known as the author of Lady Chatterly's Lover - and helped to usher in new era of sexual liberation.

The book expresses Lawrence's own belief that sex is not shameful but beautiful, that the body should be free and that through sexual relationships, individuals could connect with the Earth and its primitive, powerful rhythms. But his influence on the '60s generation went beyond this.

Perhaps ironically, the trial had rehabilitated Lawrence as a serious writer and as result, as Chris Baldick notes, his less sensational novels began to appear on the school syllabus: "For the growing number of teachers in the '60s who saw the role of literature as one of fostering imaginative resistance to a utilitarian culture, Lawrence became in this sense a touchstone of human values."

In this way, the things Lawrence had explored in his own life - joy in the body, the significance of the sexual relationship, the mystical marriage of male and female - became a part of the thinking of a new generation.

Ann-Marie Priest (Courier Mail)

No comments: