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Phallic God

Artefact 3: Phallic Tenderness | Article 8 of 12

D.H. Lawrence as Pan by Dorothy Brett
Dorothy Brett, D.H. Lawrence as Christ and Pan, 1926/1963

In the eighth of twelve essays, Stephen Alexander explores the role of the phallus in Lawrence’s writing in reinterpreting the story of Christ’s death.

Stephen Alexander

Stephen Alexander

Jesus on the Cross is, for Lawrence, a symbol of the murdered phallus. Or what Nietzsche describes as “the most subterranean conspiracy there has ever been” – a conspiracy against everything natural, everything noble, and everything upright. The slave revolt in morals is ultimately a refusal of submission to the phallic principle; something which might be described as the potent excess in all things; the pride of the peacock; the lust of the goat; the roaring of lions; the howling of wolves; the raging of the stormy sea, etc.

It is no coincidence, therefore, that Lawrence’s project ends, like Nietzsche’s, with a bold attempt to reinterpret the story of Christ’s death and resurrection: enter the man who died, a risen lord who opens up the possibility of a “Christianity of tenderness” contra a Christianity of self-glorification developed for the pseudo-meek and humble.

By going unto woman – in this case, a pagan priestess of Isis – the man who died discovers that sin lies not in the knowledge of evil or the experience of carnal pleasures, but in “turning away from the world, from chance, from the truth of bodies” [Georges Bataille]. The priestess takes the death out of him and helps him overcome his old fear of being touched. And she enables him to feel “the blaze of his manhood and power rise up in his loins”, which is always rather pleasurable.

Suggested Reading:

D. H. Lawrence, ‘The Escaped Cock’, in The Virgin and the Gipsy and Other Stories, ed. Michael Herbert, Bethan Jones and Lindeth Vasey, (CUP, 2005).

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ, trans. R. J. Hollingdale, (Penguin Books, 1990).

Georges Bataille, On Nietzsche, trans. Bruce Boone, (The Athlone Press, 1992).

William Blake, ‘Proverbs of Hell’, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in The Works of William Blake (Wordsworth Edition, 1994).



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