Anthony Burgess tore it up and stuffed the pages in his socks to get it back through Heathrow.

Wildflowers for DHL

     Lady Chatterley’s Lover

       D. H. Lawrence, 1928.

For episode #7 of the podcast I’m joined again by Melbourne cultural critic and writer, the delightful Mel Campbell, to discuss D. H. Lawrence’s last novel, his story of Lady Chatterley’s erotic emancipation. Published in 1928, the book was quickly banned in England and the USA for its “obscene” language of forbidden therefore scandalous sexual love. Burgess had to go to Paris to buy his copy, then tear it up and stuff the pages into his socks to get it back through British customs.

“The oak-leaves were to her like oak-leaves seen ruffling in a mirror, she herself was a figure somebody had read about, picking primroses that were only shadows, or memories, or words” (2005, p19).

Mel and I talk about the nature of Lawrence’s language of erotic love and wild flowers. We suggest that what may have been so politically dangerous about DHL’s prose is the “tenderness” (the novel’s original title) with which he describes Connie’s reclamation of her body from the words of her husband, from the word she once was.

Whatever the blood feels”  Political, radical, outlawed writing, a lasting testament to Lawrence’s call for a return to the body and its premiere language of “the blood”, the 1928 novel forecasts the later 20th Century feminist movement of writing from the body. Via her passionate erotic affair with Mellors – the gamekeeper on her husband’s inherited estate – Connie authors her sexual emergence from the punitive history of literary representations of women’s desire.

Almost a century later, and surrounded by much talk of Fifty Shades of Grey, we ask: what is it that makes an erotic novel truly dangerous?

D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, (1928), Barnes & Noble Classics, New York, 2005.

[Original image above: Process, not Position, © Helen Milte, Olinda, Australia, 2012.]

A famous blue dress with an A-shaped semen stain that really needs drycleaning

Literary Punk podcast episode #3 is launched!

For this episode featuring Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter I’m joined by Melbourne cultural critic and journalist Mel Campbell, author of Out of Shape – Debunking Myths about Fashion and Fit (2013).  We talk about Jennifer Lawrence’s hacked photos in the context of a couple of strange bedfellows: what Tara Moss has called “the axis of desire and contempt” (2014). We interrogate the famous semen stain on Monica Lewinsky’s little blue dress; and discuss Jackie Kennedy’s blood stained pink suit. And we talk about Hester Prynne’s self-identification in the shadows of the scarlet letter “A” as a literary emancipation, which can be read as a surprisingly radical model for modern subjects of shaming.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s peculiar Romance The Scarlet Letter (1850) stages Hester Prynne’s pillory in a chapter called ‘The Market Place’. Since Mistress Prynne’s public ordeal on the fictional 1650 Boston scaffold, America has been trading in private acts of desire. The Sex-God-State ménage à trois is an obsessional part of that society’s culture and currency – especially its ideological currency – right now and right back to as far as the mid 17th Century colony, when Hawthorne’s Puritan ancestors were Salem magistrates and witch hunters, men of the sword and the Bible. His great-great-great grandfather William’s New England notoriety was built on the relentlessly cruel persecution of a single Quaker woman. One wonders, what could she have possibly done to have inflamed His Majesty’s magistrate’s (des)ire so?

lewinskiDress (1)

Sex-God-State   [Image courtesy Hookturn]