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Phallic Epistemology

Artefact 3: Phallic Tenderness | Article 4 of 12

Rows of brains
Photo by DS Stories

In the fourth of twelve essays, Stephen Alexander explores the role of the phallus in Lawrence’s writing in relation to blood-knowledge.

Stephen Alexander

Stephen Alexander

Thinking, writes Lawrence, should take place in the body and not the mind. For whilst we can easily go wrong in the mind, what the body tells us is always true. Thus Lawrence champions a form of materially pristine blood-knowledge, untainted by idealism with all its abstractions and logical absurdities.

What this means in practice is that Lawrence isn’t concerned with establishing objective truth. He’s concerned, rather, with exploring his own feelings and experiences (i.e., of the world not as it is, but as it is for him). He dismisses evidence for evolution or the expansion of the universe, for example, on the basis that it doesn’t accord with his own instinctive-intuitive understanding of life’s development and cosmology. 

And so, whilst for Lawrence the universe isn’t mind-dependent, it’s permanently correlated nevertheless with his solar plexus and dependent upon what he terms the phallic principle. Thus it is that within Lawrentian philosophy cerebral consciousness is negatively contrasted with phallic consciousness; the former conceived as a way of knowing the world scientifically in terms of apartness and the latter a way of knowing it mytho-poetically in terms of togetherness.

And thus it is that Lawrence is left, epistemologically speaking, with one hand pressed firmly on his abdomen and the other gripped tightly round his cock so as to know the categorical difference between a rubber-ball and a pomegranate, insanely chanting: If it be not true to me, what care I how true it be? 

Suggested Reading:

D. H. Lawrence, Fantasia of the Unconscious, ed. Bruce Steele, (CUP, 2004).


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