This article compares Tolstoi and Lawrence in their attitudes towards consciousness and representations of conscious being. It notes that, although Lawrence criticized Tolstoi for his weakness of intellect and his anti-intellectualism, Lawrence's own anti-intellectualism had much in common with Tolstoi's. Both writers advocated lowered states of consciousness and warned against the dangers of self-consciousness and intellection, although the fact that they did so in a conscious and reasoned manner involved them in self-contradiction. The extent and nature of this contradiction is compared in Women in Love and Anna Karenina, with which Lawrence was preoccupied when he wrote Women in Love. The article discusses ideas on consciousness in the novels' own terms, its interpretative goal being comparative rather than thematic. Its method is to compare the states of consciousness, and ideas on consciousness, of several characters from each novel, focusing particularly on Levin and Birkin, who resemble their authors more than any other characters in their novels. Birkin is found to be less self-contradictory than Levin, since he is less anti-intellectual and more aware of the contradiction involved in his advocacy of low-consciousness. There is also an aspect of his characterization that has no equivalent in Anna Karenina: he exists in his speech, rather than diminishing his existence by reflecting upon it; the distinction and contradiction between his thought and action are therefore eliminated. This mode of characterization constitutes one way in which Lawrence distinguished his writing from that of the Russians, such as Tolstoi, whom he admired.
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Catherine Brown; The Unconscious Good Life in Anna Karenina and Women in Love. Comparative Literature 1 January 2011; 63 (1): 25–46. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-1125277
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