International D. H. Lawrence Conference: Madness, Excess, Vision

Photo by Sue Reid

In this guest blog, Sue Reid, editor of the Journal of D.H. Lawrence Studies, reports back from the International D.H. Lawrence Conference at Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense (31 March – 2 April 2016). 

Scholars from Belarus, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, UK and USA gathered recently in Paris – in defiance of acts of terrorism or even the weather – to discuss ‘Madness, excess, vision’ in the work of D. H. Lawrence. These challenging themes stimulated an exceptionally high quality of papers and debate that ranged across the oeuvre from the early poems (Holly Laird) to The Man Who Died and Apocalypse (Joseph Shafer).

We enjoyed the rare treat of a whole afternoon of papers on Lawrence’s poetry (Holly Laird, Elise Brault-Dreux, Bethan Jones, Theresa Mae Thompson, Sarah Bouttier), panels which spoke to Nietzschean resonances (Michael Bell, Adam Lecznar, Nicolas Noble), biographical conflicts (Keith Cushman, Nick Ceramella, Carl Behm) and The Plumed Serpent (Margaret Storch, Benjamin Bouche, Jane Costin), papers which re-addressed major novels, such as Women in Love (Howard Booth), Sons and Lovers (Marie-Géraldine Rademacher) and Kangaroo (Marina Ragacheskaya), and several that tackled relatively neglected areas, including the short stories ‘Tickets Please’ (Andrew Harrison, Jarica Watts) and ‘The Woman Who Rode Away’ (Fiona Fleming), The Trespasser (Susan Reid), the paintings (Brigitte Macadré-Nguyên) and presentation copies of Lawrence’s books (Jonathan Long).

Speakers returned again and again to the violence and frenzy of the First World War that marked Lawrence’s life and work so deeply and although, as Keith Cushman reminded us, Paul Delany’s D. H. Lawrence’s Nightmare (1979) remains the seminal work here, the papers presented at this conference testify that this subject is ripe for reassessment. Andrew Harrison’s re-reading of the courtship cruelty in stories from England, My England and Howard Booth’s new reading of an aesthetics of violence in Women in Love, for example, paved the way for widespread discussion of Lawrence’s increasing desire to transgress the bounds of Western civilisation, including Bethan Jones’s exploration of ‘expendable humanity’ in poems of the 1920s and a trio of papers concerning horror and Dionysian madness in The Plumed Serpent (Storch, Bouche, Costin).

All of us are deeply grateful to our hosts Cornelius Crowley and Ginette Roy, especially, since she has fed our intellectual and gastronomic appetites so magnificently for so many years. Lawrentian friends, old and new, will confer again in Paris on 29–31 March 2017 on the intriguing theme of ‘The relative and the absolute in D. H. Lawrence’s work’. For further information please contact Ginette Roy (email: