UNIVERSITE PARIS NANTERRE
Centre de recherches anglophones
34th INTERNATIONAL D.H.LAWRENCE CONFERENCE
26-28 March 2020
D.H.LAWRENCE AND THE PEOPLE
CALL FOR PAPERS
“The people, being subject to the laws, ought to be their author.”
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, chapter 6.
“Creators were they who created peoples, and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, So spake Zarathustra, Chapter 11.
The people is a more or less discreet or threatening presence in Lawrence’s fiction, a kind of collective character with its psychology and narrative function, or a topic for discussion between protagonists. It is also an important theme in the author’s non-fiction, “the political problem of the collective soul” as Gilles Deleuze puts it in his introduction to “Apocalypse.” One immediately thinks of the essay “Education of the People,” but the focus should not be exclusively on this controversial text. “The people,” that of the contemporary working class, is a theme of speculation from Lawrence’s first writings to the last. Strikingly, it is the subject of both Lettie’s letter to the narrator at the end of his first novel, The White Peacock (1911), and of Mellors’ letter at the end of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928). Even where Lawrence is tempted to romanticise exotic, primitive, or past peoples untouched by industrialization and modernity, we may perceive oblique references to his own people.
In Kangaroo, the socialist leader Struthers tells Somers insistently, “you’re the son of a working man. You were born of the People,” many Lawrence characters are “of the people,” so was Lawrence. His proximity with the working class in his youth definitely accounts for his lifelong interest in popular culture and the people’s living conditions and, sometimes, for a fleeting touch of nostalgia which never precludes critical distance. Being both an insider and an outsider in relation to the working class people, he never seemed to believe, like the aristocratic Tolstoy, in a possible regeneration through the immersion in the” people or a “turning to the people.” His readings of philosophical works, those of Plato, Locke, Rousseau, Carlyle, Nietzsche, among others, helped him to shape his vision of the relation of the people to authority. His personal change of status, his contacts with other countries, the war and the social upheavals of the period, also contributed to the deepening of his reflection on the people as a sociopolitical entity and to the development of what we may term his social philosophy. Though “the people” is ever present in Lawrence’s writings, he himself was at great pains to define what a people is. When asked to write a play for “A People’s Theatre,” he wondered facetiously about several possible meanings of the term in his “Preface to Touch and Go“: “Not The people: il popolo, le peuple, das Volk […] Plebs, the proletariat […]. What people? Quel peuple donc?” What people in Lawrence? And who does he write for? Both the polysemy of the term and the fact that the writer was himself “of the people” or “from this people” makes for complexity and probably renders these questions to which he responded with characteristic ambivalence more interesting ones.
The following is a non-exclusive list of possible topics of inquiry: Lawrence as a commentator of contemporary social theories, the will of the people, the people and the law, the social structure of primitive and modern societies, ethics and politics, leadership, the sense of superiority, colonized peoples, patriotism, intellectual influences and antagonisms, coherence or evolution of Lawrence’s social philosophy.
Scientific Committee: Cornelius Crowley, Ginette Roy
Organizing Committee: Sarah Bouttier, Elise Brault, Fiona Fleming, Mélanie Lebreton, Benjamin Bouche.
The deadline for proposals is 10 November 2019. Priority will be given to proposals received before the deadline, but we will continue to accept proposals until 20 November 2019.
Conference fee: 80 euros
Link to our journal Etudes Lawrenciennes : http://www.revues.org/10111