Women in Love – a study guide
textual history, study resources, plot, and web links
Women in Love (1921) begins where Lawrence’s earlier novel The Rainbow leaves off and features the Brangwen sisters as they try to forge new types of liberated personal relationships. The men they choose are trying to do the same thing – so the results are problematic and often disturbing. Many regard this as his finest novel, where his ideas are matched with passages of superb writing. The locations combine urban Bohemia with a symbolic climax which takes place in the icy snow caps of the Alps.
D.H. Lawrence is a writer who excites great passions in his readers – which is entirely appropriate, since that is how he wrote. He is the first really great writer to come from the (more or less) working class, and much of his work deals with issues of class, as well as other fundamentals such as the relationships between men, women, and the natural world.
At times he becomes mystic and visionary, and his prose style can be poetic, didactic, symbolic, and bombastic all within the space of a few pages. He also deals with issues of sexuality and politics in a manner which is often controversial.
Women in Love – textual history
Both The Rainbow and Women in Love have their origins in a 1913 draft called ‘The Sisters.’ The next year, Lawrence revised it further into a novel entitled The Wedding Ring, which Methuen agreed to publish in 1914. The outbreak of war late that year caused the publisher to renege on the agreement, and Lawrence decided to rework the source material, separating it into two novels.
The Rainbow, treating the early lives of the sisters, was suppressed shortly after its publication in 1915 on grounds of obscenity. Lawrence then spent four years revising the remainder of The Wedding Ring into a second novel, shopping it to publishers without success until 1920, when Thomas Seltzer published the first American edition.
Women in Love was originally published in New York City as a limited edition (1250 books), available only to subscribers; this was due to the controversy caused by The Rainbow. Because the two books were originally written as parts of a single novel, the publisher had decided to publish them separately and in rapid succession. The first book’s treatment of sexuality, while tame by today’s standards, was rather too frank for the Edwardian era. There was an obscenity trial and The Rainbow was banned in the UK for 11 years, although it was available in the US. The publisher then backed out of publishing the second book in the UK, so it first appeared in the US in 1920.
It was printed in England the following year by Martin Secker. Although both editions were based on the same copies prepared by Lawrence, the fate of The Rainbow led Secker to limit his exposure by cutting sections of the text which might run foul of the censors. In fact, in the English second printing, Heseltine’s threat to sue for libel resulted in changes to the descriptions of Halliday and the Pussum, changing the one from pale and fair-haired to swarthy and the other from red-haired to blonde.
In fact such are the textual complications behind the text that there are now two or more versions, some of which reproduce the original, and others which include formerly deleted scenes. The most authoritative are those published in the Cambridge University Press series of the definitive works of D.H.Lawrence.
Women in Love – study resources
Women in Love – Oxford World Classics – Amazon UK
Women in Love – Oxford World Classics – Amazon UK
Women in Love – Wordsworth Classics – Amazon UK
Women in Love – Wordsworth Classics – Amazon US
Women in Love – Kindle eBook edition
Women in Love – York Notes – Amazon UK
Women in Love – A Casebook (Criticism) – Amazon UK
The First Women in Love – definitive edition – Amazon UK
Women in Love – eBook editions at Project Gutenberg
Women in Love – audioBook edition at LibriVox
Women in Love – audioBook (Talking Classics) – Amazon UK
The Complete Critical Guide to D.H. Lawrence – Amazon UK
The Cambridge Companion to D.H.Lawrence – Amazon UK
The Complete Short Novels of D.H.Lawrence – Amazon UK
Women in Love – plot summary
Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen are two sisters living in the Midlands of England in the 1910s. Ursula is a teacher, Gudrun an artist. They meet two men who live nearby, school inspector Rupert Birkin and coal-mine heir Gerald Crich. The four become friends. Ursula and Birkin become involved, and Gudrun eventually begins a love affair with Gerald. The dynamics between them all are complicated, however, by the strong connection between the sisters, as well as the more ambiguous bond between the two male friends.
All four are deeply concerned with questions of society, politics, and the relationship between men and women. Ultimately however, the two relationships go in very different directions. The initial strife between Birkin and Ursula over his lingering attachment to the controlling Hermione Roddice is resolved by his eventual willingness to break off their relationship, and Birkin and Ursula give up their jobs as teachers to take up a more bohemian lifestyle.
Gerald and Gudrun begin on the firm ground of mutual sexual attraction, and their bond intensifies when Gerald’s ailing father invites Gudrun to become the art tutor for the family’s young daughter Winifred.
At a party at Gerald’s estate, Gerald’s sister Diana drowns. Soon Gerald’s coal-mine-owning father dies as well, after a long illness. After the funeral, Gerald goes to Gudrun’s house and spends the night with her, while her parents sleep in another room.
Birkin asks Ursula to marry him, and she agrees. Gerald and Gudrun’s relationship, however, becomes stormy. The four vacation in the Alps. Gudrun begins an intense friendship with Loerke, a physically puny but emotionally commanding artist from Dresden. Gerald is enraged by Loerke, by Gudrun’s verbal abuse, and by his own destructive nature. He tries to murder Gudrun, and when he fails he retreats back over the mountains and falls to a sort of voluntary death in the snow.
|Rupert Birkin||a schoolteacher|
|Ursula Brangwen||a schoolteacher|
|Gudrun Brangwen||her sister, an artist|
|Gerald Crich||the son of a wealthy industrialist|
|Loerke||a German artist|
Women in Love – film version
Director Ken Russell 1969
Alan Bates, Oliver Reed, Glenda Jackson, Jennie Linden
See reviews of the film at the Internet Movie Database
Frieda Lawrence, Not I, But the Wind…, New York: Viking Press, 1934.
Harry T. Moore, The Life and Works of D.H. Lawrence, London: Unwin Books, 1951.
Keith Sagar, The Life of D.H.Lawrence: An Illustrated Biography, London: Eyre Methuen, 1980.
John Worthen, D.H.Lawrence: The Early Years: 1885-1912: The Cambridge Biography of D.H. Lawrence, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Brenda Maddox, The Married Man: A Biography of D.H.Lawrence, London: Sinclair Stevenson, 1994.
J.T. Boulton (ed), The Selected Letters of D.H. Lawrence, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
David Ellis, D.H.Lawrence’s ‘Women in Love’: A Casebook, Oxford University Press, 2006.
John Worthen, The First ‘Women in Love’ (Cambridge Edition of the Works of D.HLawrence), Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Graham Handley, Brodie’s Notes on D.H.Lawrence’s ‘Women in Love’, London: Macmillan, 1992.
Harold Bloom, D.H.Lawrence’s ‘Women in Love’ (Modern Critical Interpretations), Chelsea House Publishers, 1991.
Anne Fernihough, The Cambridge Companion to D.H.Lawrence, Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Fiona Becket, The Complete Critical Guide to D.H. Lawrence, London: Routledge, 2002.
Mary Freeman, D.H.Lawrence A Basic Study of His Ideas, Grosset and Dunlap, 1955.
F.R.Leavis, D.H.Lawrence: Novelist, London: Chatto and Windus, 1955.
Mark Spilka, The Love Ethic of D.H.Lawrence, Dobson, 1955.
Graham Hough, The Dark Sun: A Study of D.H.Lawrence, New York: Capricorn Books, 1956.
Eliseo Vivas, D.H.Lawrence: The Failure and the Triumph of Art, General Books 1960.
Kingsley Widmer, The Art of Perversity: D.H.Lawrence’s Shorter Fiction, University of Washington Press, 1962.
Eugene Goodheart, The Utopian Vision of D.H.Lawrence, Transaction Publishers, 1963.
Julian Moynahan, The Deed of Life: The Novels and Tales of D.H.Lawrence, Oxford University Press, 1963.
George Panichas, Adventure in Consciousness: Lawrence’s Religious Quest, Folcroft Library Editions, 1964.
Helen Corke, D.H. Lawrence: The Croydon Years, Austin (Tex): University of Texas Press, 1965.
George Ford, Double Measure; A Study of D.H.Lawrence, New York: Holt Reinhart and Winston, 1965.
H M Daleski, The Forked Flame: A Study of D.H.Lawrence, Evanston (Ill): Northwestern University Press, 1965.
Keith Sagar, The Art of D.H.Lawrence, Cambridge University Press, 1966.
David Cavitch, D.H.Lawrence and the New World, Oxford University Press, 1969.
Colin Clarke, River of Dissolution: D.H.Lawrence and English Romanticism, London: Routledge, 1969.
Baruch Hochman, Another Ego: Self and Society in D.H.Lawrence, University of South Carolina Press, 1970.
Keith Aldritt, The Visual Imagination of D.H.Lawrence, Hodder and Stoughton, 1971.
R E Pritchard, D.H.Lawrence: Body of Darkness, Hutchinson, 1971.
John E Stoll, The Novels of D.H.Lawrence: A Search for Integration, University of Missouri Press, 1971.
Frank Kermode, D.H. Lawrence, London: Fontana, 1973.
Scott Sanders, D.H.Lawrence: The World of the Major Novels, Vision Press, 1973.
F.R.Leavis, Thought, Words, and Creativity: Art and Thought in Lawrence, Chatto and Windus, 1976.
Marguerite Beede Howe, The Art of the Self in D.H.Lawrence, Ohio University Press, 1977.
Alastair Niven, D.H.Lawrence: The Novels, Cambridge University Press, 1978.
Anne Smith, Lawrence and Women, London: Vision Press, 1978.
R.P. Draper (ed), D.H. Lawrence: The Critical Heritage, London: Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1979.
John Worthen, D.H.Lawrence and the Idea of the Novel, London: Macmillan, 1979.
Aidan Burns, Nature and Culture in D.H.Lawrence, London: Macmillan, 1980.
L D Clark, The Minoan Distance: Symbolism of Travel in D.H.Lawrence, University of Arizona Press, 1980.
Roger Ebbatson, D.H.Lawrence and the Nature Tradition: A Theme in English Fiction 1859-1914, Humanities Oress, 1980.
Alastair Niven, D.H.Lawrence: The Writer and His Work, New York: Scribner, 1980.
Philip Hobsbaum, A Reader’s Guide to D.H.Lawrence, Thames and Hudson, 1981.
Kim A.Herzinger , D.H.Lawrence in His Time: 1908-1915, Bucknell University Press, 1982.
Graham Holderness, D.H.Lawrence: History, Ideology and Fiction, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1982.
Hilary Simpson, D.H.Lawrence and Feminism, London: Croom Helm, 1982.
Gamini Salgado, A Preface to D.H. Lawrence, London: Longman, 1983.
Judith Ruderman, D.H.Lawrence and the Devouring Mother, Duke University Press, 1984.
Anthony Burgess, Flame Into Being: The Life and Work of D.H.Lawrence, London: Heinemann, 1985.
Sheila McLeod, Lawrence’s Men and Women, London: Heinemann, 1985.
Henry Miller, The World of Lawrence: A Passionate Appreciation, London: Calder Publications,  1985.
Keith Sagar, D.H.Lawrence: Life Into Art, London: Penguin Books, 1985.
Mara Kalnins (ed), D.H. Lawrence: Centenary Essays, Bristol: Classical Press, 1986.
Michael Black, D.H. Lawrence: The Early Fiction, Cambridge University Press, 1986
Peter Scheckner, Class, Politics, and the Individual: A Study of the Major Works of D.H.Lawrence, Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1986.
Cornelia Nixon, D.H.Lawrence’s Leadership Novels and the Turn Against Women, University of California Press, 1986.
Colin Milton, Lawrence and Nietzsche: A Study in Influence, Mercat Press, 1988.
Peter Balbert, D.H.Lawrence and the Phallic Imagination: Essays on Sexual Identity and Feminist Misreading, London: Macmillan, 1989.
Wayne Templeton, States of Estrangement: the Novels of D.H.Lawrence 1912-17, Whiston Publishing, 1989.
Janet Barron, D.H.Lawrence: (Feminist Readings), Prentice Hall, 1990.
Keith Brown (ed), Rethinking Lawrence, Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1990.
James C Cowan, D.H.Lawrence and the Trembling Balance, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990.
John B Humma, Metaphor and Meaning in D.H.Lawrence’s Later Novels, University of Missouri Press 1990.
G M Hyde, D.H.Lawrence (Modern Novelists), London: Macmillan, 1990.
Allan Ingram, The Language of D.H. Lawrence, London: Macmillan, 1990.
Nancy Kushigian, Pictures and Fictions: Visual Modernism and the Pre-War Novels of D.H.Lawrence, Peter Lang Publishing, 1990.
Tony Pinkney, Lawrence (New Readings), Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Weatsheaf, 1990.
Leo J.Dorisach, Sexually Balanced Relationships in the Novels of D.H.Lawrence, Peter Lang Publishing, 1991.
Nigel Kelsey, D.H.Lawrence: Sexual Crisis (Studies in 20th Century Literature), London: Macmillan, 1991.
Barbara Mensch, D.H.Lawrence and the Authoritarian Personality, London: Macmillan, 1991.
John Worthen, D H Lawrence (Modern Fiction), London: Arnold, 1991.
Michael Bell, D.H.Lawrence: Language and Being, Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Michael Black, D.H. Lawrence: Sons and Lovers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Virginia Hyde, The Risen Adam: D. H. Lawrence’s Revisionist Typology, University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992.
James B.Sipple, Passionate Form: life process as artistic paradigm in D.H.Lawrence, Peter Lang Publishing, 1992.
Kingsley Widmer, Defiant Desire: Some Dialectical Legacies of D.H.Lawrence, Southern Illinois University Press, 1992.
Anne Fernihough, D.H.Lawrence: Aesthetics and Ideology, Clarendon Press, 1993.
Linda R Williams, Sex in the Head: Visions of Femininity and Film in D.H.Lawrence, Prentice Hall, 1993.
Katherine Waltenscheid, The Resurrection of the Body: Touch in D.H.Lawrence, Peter Lang Publishing, 1993.
Robert E.Montgomery, The Visionary D.H.Lawrence: Beyond Philosophy and Art, Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Leo Hamalian, D.H.Lawrence and Nine Women Writers, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996.
Anne Fernihough, The Cambridge Companion to D.H.Lawrence, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Fiona Becket, The Complete Critical Guide to D.H.Lawrence, London: Routledge, 2002.
James C Cowan, D.H. Lawrence: Self and Sexuality, Ohio State University Press, 2003.
John Worthen, D.H.Lawrence: The Life of an Outsider, London: Penguin, 2006.
David Ellis (ed), D.H.Lawrence’s ‘Women in Love’: A Casebook, Oxford University Press, 2006.
Other work by D.H.Lawrence
Sons and Lovers This is Lawrence’s first great novel. It’s a quasi-autobiographical account of a young man’s coming of age in the early years of the twentieth century. Set in working class Nottinghamshire, it focuses on class conflicts and gender issues as young Paul Morrell is torn between a passionate relationship with his mother and his attraction to other women. He also has a quasi-Oedipal conflict with his coal miner father. If you are new to Lawrence and his work, this is a good place to start.
Buy the book at Amazon UK
Buy the book at Amazon US
The Rainbow This is Lawrence’s version of a social saga, spanning three generations of the Brangwen family. It is the women characters in this novel who remain memorable as they strive to express their feelings. The story concludes with the struggle of two sisters, Ursula and Gudrun, to liberate themselves from the stifling pressures of Edwardian English society. They also feature in his next and some say greatest novel, Women in Love – so it would be a good idea to read this first.
Buy the book at Amazon UK
Buy the book at Amazon US
D.H.Lawrence – web links
D.H.Lawrence at Mantex
Biographical notes, book reviews, study guides, videos, bibliographies, critical studies, and web links.
D.H.Lawrence at Project Gutenberg
A major collection of free eTexts of the novels, stories, travel writing, and poetry – available in a variety of formats.
D.H.Lawrence at Wikipedia
Biographical notes, social background, publishing history, the Lady Chatterley trial, critical reputation, bibliography, archives, and web links.
D.H.Lawrence at the Internet Movie Database
Adaptations of Lawrence’s work for the cinema and television – in various languages. Full details of directors, actors, production, box office, trivia, and even quizzes.
D.H.Lawrence archive at the University of Nottingham
Biography, further reading, textual genetics, frequently asked questions, his local reputation, research centre, bibliographies, and lists of holdings.
D.H.Lawrence and Eastwood
Nottinhamshire local enthusiast web site featuring biography, historical and recent photographs of the Eastwood area and places associated with Lawrence.
The World of D.H.Lawrence
Yet another University of Nottingham web site featuring biography, interactive timeline, maps, virtual tour, photographs, and web links.
Local authority style web site, with maps, educational centre, and details of lectures, visits, and forthcoming events.
© Roy Johnson 2010
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