Conceived with Malice: Literature as Revenge in the Lives of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Djuna Barnes, and Henry Miller

Conceived with Malice: Literature as Revenge in the Lives of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Djuna Barnes, and Henry Miller

by Louise DeSalvo
     
 

Evoking Bloomsbury and Paris in the 1920s and '30s, an acclaimed biographer illuminates the dark motives behind masterpieces of 20th-century literature--particularly in the works of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Djuna Barnes, and Henry Miller. A daring analysis of much never-before-addressed material.  See more details below

Overview

Evoking Bloomsbury and Paris in the 1920s and '30s, an acclaimed biographer illuminates the dark motives behind masterpieces of 20th-century literature--particularly in the works of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Djuna Barnes, and Henry Miller. A daring analysis of much never-before-addressed material.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
DeSalvo (Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work) examines here the psychological forces that inform creativity in this lively literary study. Focusing on three 20th-century novels and one play, she presents biographical research to demonstrate how each author exacted revenge through writing fiction. Barnes's play, The Actiphon, according to the author, was a thinly disguised history of the sexual assaults she had endured from her father and brothers. Henry Miller wrote Crazy Cock to strike back at a wife who obsessed him, and the negative portrait of Hermione in Lawrence's Women in Love, DeSalvo argues, was based on former lover Lady Ottoline Morrell. DeSalvo also suggests provocatively that Leonard Woolf's characterization of his wife, Virginia, in The Wise Virgins, as frigid was inaccurate; rather, it was Leonard who was repelled by Virginia's sexual needs. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Library Journal
DeSalvo (English, Hunter Coll.) here provides a riveting account of the role of revenge as muse in the lives and works of four modern writers. Using psychobiography, the author fashions provocative readings of Leonard Woolf's The Wise Virgins, D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love, Djuna Barnes's The Actiphon, and Henry Miller's Crazy Cock. For example, Barnes's work is read as a revenge play directed against a family history of incest and sexual abuse, while Miller's entire oeuvre is motivated by his love and hatred for June Miller. Although the book reads like an Oprah Winfrey show for the literati, DeSalvo convincingly demonstrates that revenge is a far more common motivation for literary works than most would like to acknowledge. What emerges from this fine study is a portrait of the artist as pathologically insecure. Highly recommended.-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Westerville P.L., Ohio
Kathleen Hughes
DeSalvo examines the tantalizing theory that many great works of literature have revenge as their motive. Like her other innovative work, "Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work" (1990), this book reveals the baser instincts behind some of the greatest and most powerful writing. For instance, DeSalvo shows how Leonard Woolf savaged his wife's reputation by basing a sexually dysfunctional and slightly crazy character in his novel, "The Wise Virgins", on her. D. H. Lawrence does the same to his patron, Ottoline Morrell, portraying her (in an instantly recognizable character) as vapid and perverse. Both authors were fully aware that all of their mutual friends would recognize these portraits. Perhaps the saddest story is that of writer Djuna Barnes, whose powerhouse of a play, "The Antiphon", won her worldwide acclaim. DeSalvo shows that Barnes' personal life closely resembles the play, which is an appalling story of incest and sexual abuse. DeSalvo also examines the writing of Henry Miller, whose lifelong anger and obsession with his terminally unfaithful wife, June, is the inspiration for his entire life's work. This is a fascinating book packed full of seductive gossip and anecdotes. Obviously, DeSalvo has exhaustively researched her subjects, and the result is a knowledgeable, perhaps controversial, analysis of literature.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780525938996
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
11/01/1994
Pages:
437
Product dimensions:
6.31(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.42(d)

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