The Faces of Influence: Women in Love as Lawrence's Response to Howards End
The relationship between E.M. Forster and D.H. Lawrence has fascinating and problematic aspects, as both express strongly similar themes in their work deriving from starkly different backgrounds. The similarities and differences are best encapsulated in a representative novel by each author, Forster's Howards End, and Lawrence's Women in Love, which provide an apparent similarity of purpose, theme and intent. This paper proposes to compare the two novels in light of a variation of Harold Bloom's theory of literary influence, which sees new artists historically bound to "wrestle with their strong precursors, even to the death" (Anxiety 5). This struggle will either defeat the "latecomer", or will result in the assertion of his own creativity to such an extent that the work of the precursor can no longer be read without regard to the later poet. The antithetical relationship of precursor to neophyte becomes so dominant that it seems as if "the later poet himself had written the precursor's characteristic work" (16). Influence, thus, operates bi-directionally as a quintessentially modernist phenomenon, essentially negating history as continuum. If we see Forster's publication of Howards End in 1910 as the precursor novel, and Lawrence's Women in Love, completed in 1916, as the later poet's reaction to the influence of the father, we are faced with two major novels of the early twentieth century integrating the major themes of modernism in a parallel, yet vastly different manner, for Lawrence was anything but a willing neophyte to Forster. Where we might expect, from Bloom's thesis, an increasing, wilful drive toward interiority, self-consciousness and subjectivity, this is fundamentally opposite to Lawrence's focus on class, social issues and sense of "community". It is this deviation from Bloom's theory that forms the foundation of the significant comparison of Lawrence to Forster.
Keywords: Forster, E.M. Lawrence, D.H. Influence, Bloom, Harold
Dr. Fred Mensch
Department Chair, English Department Academic Foundations and Bridging, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology