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Book review

Shirley Bricout, Le Texte biblique et la réflexion politique dans Aaron’s Rod, Kangaroo et The Plumed Serpent

Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée, Université Montpellier III, 2008, 328 p., 25 euros
Ginette Katz-Roy
p. 225-227
Référence(s) :

Shirley Bricout, Le Texte biblique et la réflexion politique dans Aaron’s Rod, Kangaroo et The Plumed Serpent, Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée, Université Montpellier III, 2008, 328 p., 25 euros

Notes de la rédaction

This review will also be published in The D.H. Lawrence Review.

Texte intégral

1This book offers a very exhaustive study of the subversive intertextual relation of Lawrence’s three “leadership novels” with the Bible and shows how this complex link conditioned the expression of the writer’s political thought. In her very dense introduction, Shirley Bricout recalls that for Lawrence, the Bible was the archetype of the literary text as well as one of the essential sources of his philosophical and political reflection, in spite of his rejection of traditional Christianity, hence she wishes to insist on the narrative function of the biblical borrowings in these novels, their impact on Lawrence’s own style, language and phrasing as well as on the evolution of his perception and deconstructive use of the Bible in this post-war and post-colonial context. Her aim is to show how the desacralisation of the biblical text leads to the mythopoetic sacralisation of the Lawrentian text. Resorting to modern literary theories (Bakhtin, Barthes, Kristeva, Genette, Derrida, Ricoeur etc.), she tries to throw light on what she calls this “intertextuality in movement.”

2She first examines James Cowan’s and Terry Wright’s contributions to the study of the influence of the Bible on Lawrence, and proposes to go further into the analysis of the writer’s practice. She focusses on his rewriting of the Bible and on all the techniques he uses to denounce traditional religion, notably parody, pastiche, and burlesque travesty.

3With an excellent knowledge of the Bible and a remarkable attention to the texts, Shirley Bricout establishes tables of biblical echoes (p. 56 to 82) which already reveal the transformation of the hypotext that she comments upon in the next chapters. She shows that for Lawrence the notions of sacrifice, mutilation and humiliation are anthetical to that of the sacred. They are associated with the brutality of a state which does not respect the individual in his integrity. She then justifies very convincingly the presence of the “Nightmare Chapter” in Kangaroo, and other digressions on the war in the two other novels, as the expression of a revolt against what puts up a barrier between the ego and the cosmos. Since women play an important role in the men’s quest for a new equilibrium, the author devotes interesting pages to the representation of wife, sacred prostitute and mother and child. The subversion of the biblical text also serves Lawrence’s denunciation of the sins of colonial empires which becomes increasingly virulent through the three novels. Yet the writer, a modern prophet in search of cosmic connections, never dismisses the spiritual dimension of politics. The last chapter deals more specifically with Lawrence’s political thought, his attitude to fascism, marxism and capitalism, and his very personal use of apocalyptic symbols. A brief study of Engels’ and Marx’s attitude to Christianity or their use of Christian metaphors precedes a very subtle analysis of Willie Struthers’ or Aaron’s ideological discourse. The author sets the rigid monologism of Marxist texts in opposition to the dynamic dialogism of Lawrence’s relation to the biblical hypotext. In her conclusion, she sums up the three functions of this intertextuality: the deconstruction of contemporary ideologies and political connections, the search for an ideal community founded on communion, and the conversion of symbols.

4Shirley Bricout gives brilliant illustrations of “intertextuality in movement” in her study of a number of themes or images like the characters’ exodus, the power/ submission relation, or the rainbow or star symbols. Her response to Lawrence’s ideas on fascism and judeao-christianity is always fair and balanced. Her book is a piece of very deep, serious and honest research. With its all-embracing ambition, it gives an impression of profundity but also of great intricacy and sometimes of heterogeneity in its structure, its theoretical references and its contents. Yet, Shirley Bricout has the great merit of paying scrupulous attention to these rather unpopular novels and giving very close readings and original interpretations of a number of key passages. The way she brings together the Bible and Lawrence’s texts as well as the writer’s aesthetic vision and his political project is extremely illuminating and may be of great interest to Lawrence scholars.

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Référence papier

Ginette Katz-Roy, « Shirley Bricout, Le Texte biblique et la réflexion politique dans Aaron’s Rod, Kangaroo et The Plumed Serpent », Études Lawrenciennes, 41 | 2010, 225-227.

Référence électronique

Ginette Katz-Roy, « Shirley Bricout, Le Texte biblique et la réflexion politique dans Aaron’s Rod, Kangaroo et The Plumed Serpent », Études Lawrenciennes [En ligne], 41 | 2010, mis en ligne le 24 janvier 2014, consulté le 20 septembre 2017. URL : http://lawrence.revues.org/161

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Auteur

Ginette Katz-Roy

Ginette Katz-Roy, director of the Research Group on Lawrence at the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre and co-editor of Etudes lawrenciennes has published widely on Lawrence and other British authors and artists in various French or foreign publications. She is the co-editor and co-author of D.H. Lawrence (Paris: Cahier de l’Herne, 1989) and the author of Synthèse sur Women in Love (Paris, Editions du Temps, 2001).

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Études lawrenciennes est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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