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Persephone in Taos: A refutation of misogyny in D. H. Lawrence's new world fiction

Carole A Schuyler, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Lawrence was familiar with the Demeter-Persephone-Hades triangle from his extensive reading in literature and other disciplines that study myth. He was perhaps too familiar with it from enacting and observing the roles of the three principals in his parents' marriage and his own. Because his fiction followed from his life, the Persephone myth threads through his oeuvre from The White Peacock to The Man Who Died. In this dissertation, I examine the four New World stories, written in 1922–1925 in New Mexico and Mexico, for narrative details of the myth. I first discuss the most authentic version of the myth, Hesiod's Homeric Hymn to Demeter . Then, for each story, I point out which version(s) of the myth and which Great Mother figure(s)—Demeter, Persephone, or Hecate—predominate. Because Lawrence read and responded to Freud and Jung, I use psychoanalysts and analytical psychologists for clarification. Critics accuse Lawrence of misogyny in these works because the myth seems an excuse to visit travails upon women: murder of the Woman in “The Woman Who Rode Away,” a direly rundown ranch for Lou and a nervous breakdown for Mrs. Witt in St. Mawr. multiple rapes for Dollie in The Princess and, for Kate in Ouetzalcoatl and The Plumed Serpent, coarsening of sensibility and danger of assassination. Therefore, I end the interpretation of each story with an explanation of why it's inappropriate to apply “misogynist” to Lawrence. In all of them, Lawrence believes that women need rescue (as do men) from a patriarchal matrix of organized religion', industrialization, and various “isms.” Once sprung, as he and Frieda are, they too can struggle towards individuation, an integration of the four levels of life: intrapsychic, interpersonal, socio-political, and cosmic. What appears to be misogyny I see as an attempt to resolve the isolation/assimilation dilemma and an example of Freud's “feminine repudiation” in “Analysis Terminable and Interminable”: hostility to men who were his real-life competitors and empathy verging on self-masochism towards women which forced him to battle those closest to him for breathing space.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature|Literature

Recommended Citation

Schuyler, Carole A, "Persephone in Taos: A refutation of misogyny in D. H. Lawrence's new world fiction" (1999). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9950209.