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Studies in Classic American Literature (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of D. H. Lawrence) Hardcover – January 27, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


"[A] wealth of relevant material for scholars...The Cambridge editors are to be commended for a Herculean labor, for which all those who work on Lawrence owe a huge debt of gratitude." Earl G. Ingersoll, SUNY College at Brockport

Book Description

Studies in Classic American Literature, first published in 1923 and long out of print, provides a cross-section of Lawrence's writing on American literature, including landmark essays on Benjamin Franklin, Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville and Walt Whitman. This volume offers the final 1923 version of the text in a newly corrected and uncensored form, as well as earlier, often very different, versions of many of the essays, and a host of other materials, including four different versions of Lawrence's pioneering essay on Whitman.

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Product Details

  • Series: The Cambridge Edition of the Works of D. H. Lawrence
  • Hardcover: 714 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; First Edition edition (January 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521550165
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521550161
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,237,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By on May 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
I first learned of this delightful little work as a college freshman. My professor, a remarkably learned fellow with a tremendous knowledge of American literature, would occasionally reference it with amused appreciation. In our discussion of the Last of the Mohicans, I can still recall his enjoyment in recounting Lawrence's description of Cooper, sitting in a hotel room in a European city, with his gentleman's finery, surrounded by all of the trappings of a genteel aristocrat, living a sort of Walter Mitty life through his virtual antithesis -- Natty Bumpo, the protagonist of the Leatherstocking tales. To this day, I am amazed whenever I read this little tome, since Lawrence captures, in a few short essays, the essence of such authors as Franklin, Whitman, Cooper, and Melville. His style, so cheeky and incisive, is a joy to read. Lawrence had an astonishing grasp of what it is that makes American literature so fundamentally different from that which was composed by his own countrymen. He brings a pschoanalytic, Jungian perspective to bear on these great works, and sees in Natty Bumpo, Ishmael, and other heroes of American literature the archetypes of our collective American unconscious. Of course, this work tells us as much about Lawrence as it does about great American writers, which is why it makes such great reading. Lawrence is well known for being a novelist, but his corpus contains much else besides: travel literature, criticism, poetry, essays. This one is highly recommended.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By C. Ebeling on November 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
There are three reasons to read STUDIES IN CLASSIC AMERICAN LITERATURE by D.H. Lawrence. First: to better understand Lawrence and his themes. Second: to be entertained. Criticism is rarely rendered with so much passion, wit and clarity. Third: to experience American culture from an outsider's perspective, a very knowledgeable though albeit highly opinionated perspective (which makes for that entertainment value).

DHL's prevailing theory is that to emerge as a distinct cultural, as well as distinct political entity free from Europe, America had to go through some growing pains before arriving at its authentic self. America had to kill off the European in its heart. He starts out with Ben Franklin, whom he gives a real trouncing for the overly self-conscious act of assigning an American character with a shopping list of virtues. (It should come as no surprise that DHL especially has trouble with "chastity.") Ben may be generating a fake, a lie, but he marks the beginning of an effort to break with the old homeland, Europe. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur is next in line for a beating. He moved his unfortunate family to the frontier, wrote the letters glowing with the accounts of the American Dream amongst the nature and the "savages" and then went back to France to revel in literary salons. When he returned, the wife and farm had met brutal ends in that American dream in which he had left them, so he settled in New York City. DHL screams, "Fake!" But Crevecoeur did announce the concept of an ideal tied to the unique attributes of the new world.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Marysia on August 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
D.H. Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature is by no means a comprehensive analysis of the American classics at the time Lawrence wrote his collection of essays. The works of Harriet Beecher-Stowe and Mark Twain are notably missing. But Lawrence's aim was not to analyze all the seminal works of American literature. He chose specific authors who fit his agenda and constructed an evolutionary argument around them. Lawrence's main thread is that America can't emerge as a culture in its own right until it discards completely the influence of Old Europe and finds its own "spirit of place"--the sense of who the people are and what drives them. The author's search for this spirit of place results in a more or less disparaging analysis of each American author in turn, with few exceptions of genuine praise.

We begin with Benjamin Franklin. Lawrence derides him for advocating "the perfectability of man" (Lawrence 15) and creating a list of virtues, and proceeds in doing the same himself. "I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women." This is of course merely a symbol; Lawrence was not pagan. But it begs the question: If we are supposed to accept all these new rules at face value, based only on Lawrence's discursive analyses and often abstract philosophizing, doesn't it stand to reason that Benjamin Franklin's rules were open to symbolic interpretation as well? I marvel at Lawrence, actually. He makes a good deal of sense, but he too hits a wrong note sometimes. And then speaks entirely in absolutes for the whole book, as if his opinion truly is the only one. Suffice to say Benjamin Franklin was a good deal more intelligent than Lawrence makes him out to be and was horrifically underserved by Lawrence.
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