Studies in Classic American Literature
This chapter reassesses Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature in the context of its publication in the United States in 1923. In American Studies today, Lawrence’s Studiesis deemed a reactionary work of national canon-formation and a forerunner for the myth and symbol method of the Cold War criticism of the post-World War II era. This chapter argues that Studies should be understood instead in the context of its post-World War I publication in the United States as a work of radical cultural criticism which comports in respects with the critical writing of Van Wyck Brooks and H. L. Mencken; like these homegrown critics, Lawrence queries the national, Puritan-origins, narrative of American literature sponsored by Mencken’s antagonist, Stuart Sherman. Lawrence’s book, it is suggested here, also anticipates the transnational and post-national paradigms of the New American Studies. The chapter also explores the provenance of Lawrence’s book in the theories of biopsychology and somatic or “blood consciousness” he developed in the 1910s. The chapter reads the final version of Studiesas Lawrence’s response to the Pueblo Indian culture and to the tensions of the triethnic “contact zone” of northern New Mexico, where he completed the work.
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