Lawrence’s place in the development of prose fiction is at once easy to explain in a general sense and perennially controversial in relation to particular strands among the cultural movements which were taking place during his writing life. His novels are ultimately unique and his own, the product of his powerful personality, and they defy easy definition. We have already recognised, in Part 1 of this book, that Lawrence’s novels incessantly use the fictional creation to argue his own feelings: he is a highly visible and idiosyncratic author on every page. When Lawrence saw a group label coming, or if he felt the insidious approach of a label, he usually responded by delivering a literary punch on the jaw to lay the label out flat, and so assert his individualism, his difference. Later in this chapter we will briefly discuss how Lawrence’s works continue to evade any settled critical judgement: it is as if he is still alive, still provoking arguments and delivering counterblows to the defining critical ‘schools’. In the broadest terms, however, we can place Lawrence’s works among the ‘modernist’ experiments in fiction of his time, alongside the works of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and others. There is no doubt that Lawrence’s novels took part in what Virginia Woolf called the ‘smashing and the crashing’,1 the tearing down of literary conventions and destruction of accepted forms that many artists in different media were engaged in at the same time.
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