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The Phallus is the Bridge to the Future

Artefact 3: Phallic Tenderness | Article 1 of 12

Rainbow over a bridge.
Photo by Frans van Heerden.

In the first of twelve essays, Stephen Alexander explores the role of the phallus in Lawrence’s writing. Here he looks at the phallus as a bridge to the future.

Stephen Alexander

Stephen Alexander

The phallus, writes Lawrence, is the bridge to the future. It’s an intriguing statement. But what could it possibly mean? It means the phallus is a privileged term within Lawrence’s thinking. For the phallus is that which connects two objects and brings them into touch, but not into oneness. The phallus, in other words, generates relations whilst respecting the pathos of distance and ontological difference that exists between things.

But this generating of relations in a world of withdrawn and autonomous objects each with their own unique powers and capacities, isn’t easy; which is why the bridging aspect of the phallus across the essential gulf of being is so crucial. The phallus lets us know things as things and not as mere representations or ideas (be these things dead or alive, natural or artificial, actual or virtual).

The phallus, in other words, keeps things real and is central to Lawrence’s onto-erotics and to the establishment of his immanent utopia existing forever in the moment (as the now/here) and which he terms a democracy of touch.  Or, to paraphrase Nietzsche, we might declare the phallus to be the counter-nihilistic force par excellence – for what is modern nihilism at last if not a form of recoil from every form of contact and the breaking of every bond?

Suggested Reading:

D. H. Lawrence, The First and Second Lady Chatterley Novels, ed. Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn, (CUP, 1999).

D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover and A Propos of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, ed. Michael Squires, (CUP, 1983).

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