Imagined Nostalgia

Gavin Shulman '05, English 171, Brown University, Autumn 2003

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D.H. Lawrence wants us to believe he envies Etruscan culture and an earlier time; the easy centuries of the history of man. A time before empires and conquests. A time before "social gain". A time before greed. When men and women lived careless and free, each knowing their responsibility and equipment. When dancing to the double flute was all people needed to do. When life was truly vital. It is this time Lawrence longs for. This physical period of the phallus, the ark, and nothing on the side.

The tombs seem so easy and friendly, cut out of rock underground. One does not feel opressed, descending into them. It must be partly owing to the peculiar charm of natural proportion which is in all Etruscan things of the unspoilt, unromanticised centuries. There is a simplicity, combined with a most peculiar, free-breasted naturalness and spontanaeity, in the shapes and movements of the underworld walls and spaces, that at once reassures the spirit. The Greeks sought to make an impression, and Gothic still more seeks to impress the mind. The Etruscans, no. The things they did, in their easy centuries, are as natural and as easy as breathing. They leave the breast breathing freely and pleasantly, with a certain fullness of life. Even the tombs. And that is the true Etruscan quality: ease, naturalness, and an abundance of life, no need to force the mind or the soul in any direction.

Ooh boy does that sound nice. Ease, naturalness, control over my own soul, where's the line because I want to get a good spot? Being Etruscan sounds great. I'm in, and my phallus is coming with me. I'm going to take a few language credits and try to study abroad, in Etrusca, next semester. I heard the night-life is a little dead, but that there's an abundance during the day to make up for that. I can not wait for the care-free life that awaits me. The same carefree life that embraced everyone for centuries upon centuries before Christ was born. When no one worked. Food just appeared. Children raised themselves. Houses need not be built and therefore maintained. Everyone got along. Peace and love, phallus and ark, carelessness and vitality ruled the world.

Does Lawrence idealize a past and a culture that he could not possibly know? Is it ironic that he is romanticizing a culture that he praises for it's lack of romanticism?

How does he deal with contradictions, such as the obvious emphasis Etruscan culture put on treasure, buried so proportionately throughout the tombs?

Are we sure Etruscans were not vicious, what make Lawrence so sure?

Do we sympathize for Lawrence, being alive when he is?

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Last modified 28 October 2003