October 13, 2019

1. The Parthenon

I saw a documentary called “Secrets of the Parthenon.” It’s part of the PBS series “Nova,” and it’s available on Youtube. It’s an excellent documentary, it won an award for “best documentary on a subject other than current events.” It was made by Gary Glassman, a filmmaker based in Providence, Rhode Island. It deals with the Parthenon as an engineering feat and as an artistic achievement. It describes a project to repair/restore the Parthenon, a project that may now be completed (the film was made in 2009).

The film pays special attention to “entasis,” the curve or bulge in a column that gives an impression of strength. It says that there are few right angles in the Parthenon, because there are many curves/bulges. These curves/bulges give the stone a kind of life, a kind of vitality.

Perhaps the chief weakness of the documentary is that it doesn’t say much about the Parthenon’s sculptures, it only mentions the “Elgin Marbles” in passing. The sculptures are both natural and sublime, one of man’s most remarkable achievements.

Decoration of the Parthenon was completed in 432 BC. At the center of the temple was a giant gold statue of Athena Parthenos (Athena the Virgin). In 431 BC, the Peloponnesian War broke out, and Pericles proposed stripping the gold from the statue to pay for war materials. What a commentary on human nature!

Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great...
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast...
     Man’s superior part
Unchecked may rise, and climb from art to art;
But when his own great work is but begun,
What Reason weaves, by Passion is undone.
     --Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Man”

2. Heterodox Academy

“In the psychology department at Yale, there is one registered Republican out of 37; in the history department, there are three out of 55; in the economics department, there are zero out of 25.”1 There have recently been

several high-profile controversies at Yale in the areas of racial politics, free speech, and academic freedom. Perhaps the best known of these controversies resulted in Nicholas Christakis, a prominent member of the Yale faculty, resigning his position as a college master after becoming the target of an angry student protest over views he and his wife expressed on the censorship of Halloween costumes.

Some concerned Yale alumni asked Nicholas Rosenkranz, a Georgetown law professor and Yale alum, to run for a seat on the Yale Corporation, the university’s governing body. Rosenkranz is in a leading figure in FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education); Rosenkranz says that FIRE is “the preeminent defender of free speech on campus.” He’s also prominent in the Federalist Society, which he calls “the leading proponent of intellectual diversity and debate in legal education.”

Rosenkranz calls Yale “the undisputed Ivy League heavyweight champ of bureaucracy.” He says,

Bureaucratic bloat is a problem for several reasons.... It diverts resources from the core academic mission of a university.... Diversity and inclusion bureaucrats may focus single-mindedly on diversity and inclusion (which are, to be sure, important values), while giving short shrift to central academic values like freedom of speech.... Academic bureaucrats tend to be even more monolithically left-wing than faculties, so the lack of intellectual diversity on campus is, if anything, exacerbated by a bloated bureaucracy.

What is the purpose of a university? Rosenkranz:

I think, above all, an institution like Yale must be dedicated to the search for truth. If the history of ideas has shown anything, it has shown that the quest for truth is best advanced in a climate of unfettered inquiry, via the clash of different arguments. So a great university like Yale can and should serve a secondary social purpose too: it should serve as a model of civil discourse and reasoned debate.

In an earlier issue, I said that the motto of Harvard is Truth (Veritas), but if Harvard were choosing a motto today, it would make a different choice.

Another advocate of campus freedom is Jonathan Haidt, who specializes in psychology and moral reasoning. Haidt taught for 15 years at the University of Virginia, where he won several awards for teaching. Currently he teaches at NYU. In 2018, Haidt published The Coddling of the American Mind, which deals with campus issues. (The co-author of Coddling is Greg Lukianoff. Lukianoff and Haidt wrote an article in Atlantic in 2015 called “The Coddling of the American Mind.”)

In 2015, Haidt and Rosenkranz started Heterodox Academy, an organization that promotes “intellectual diversity” and “unfettered debate” in academia. Rosenkranz says that he and Haidt

had both noticed that our respective fields had very little intellectual diversity among faculty, and that, as a result, several pathologies had crept into the scholarship. As our fields were dominated by a rigid liberal orthodoxy, many premises went unquestioned and many fundamental questions went unasked. Inevitably, with no dissenting voices to challenge the conventional wisdom, the work has gotten less and less rigorous as it takes on the character of preaching to the choir.

3. Brideshead Revisited

A. A Catholic Novel

I recently read Brideshead Revisited, one of Evelyn Waugh’s best-known novels. It’s more serious than his earlier comic novels; it’s considered a Catholic novel, and several characters have conversions. Much of the novel, however, has a light, witty tone; some readers probably enjoy the wit and ignore the religion. The religion is subtle, so it’s easy to ignore; there’s no explicit preaching, there isn’t a single argument in favor of Christianity or Catholicism.

Many critics take a dim view of the Catholic element in Brideshead. I found the Catholic element completely unconvincing; I suspect that Brideshead has converted few readers. But Waugh’s work is enjoyable to read because Waugh is a great stylist and humorist. I’m sure I would enjoy his purely comic works, such as Scoop.

One of the Catholic characters in Brideshead, Sebastian, says that he believes in “Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass” because “it’s a lovely idea.” Perhaps Waugh was drawn to the Catholic Church because it had many lovely aspects. And perhaps he was drawn to the practical aspect of the Church — the rites, the series of actions; the Church gives the believer something to do. As Ian Ker put it, “Catholicism is a businesslike religion, highly concrete and practical.”2

But is it true? Can it satisfy us intellectually? Is it intellectually honest to subscribe to a religion without believing it’s true? Shouldn’t we start with a worldview that we really believe in, then build a religion on that? Is it enough to have lovely things, and rites that occupy the mind? I don’t deny the value of rites/sacraments/ceremonies, I realize that they can guide the individual through the stages of life, but shouldn’t there be a kernel of truth at the bottom of it all?

B. “Creamy English Charm”

The Catholic element in Brideshead is pervasive but under-stated, unobtrusive. What bothers me most about Brideshead isn’t the religion, but rather the atmosphere of decadence and perversity. Waugh can never describe a simple event in a simple way, he never attains the sublime through simplicity. Perhaps this is a function of his era: Waugh came to maturity just after World War I, so he was suspicious of fine feelings, suspicious of sweetness and charm.

A character in Brideshead, Anthony Blanche, probably speaks for Waugh when he says, “Charm is the great English blight.... It kills love; it kills art.” Anthony says that he likes spicy things, not Jane Austen, not Mary Mitford, not “simple, creamy English charm.” Anthony criticizes Charles’ paintings for being gentlemanly, he would prefer that Charles’ paintings be barbaric and unhealthy.

Let’s compare Waugh to a novelist who can describe simple things in a simple way, a novelist who doesn’t have a penchant for decadence and perversity. In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy describes how Anna’s affair has separated her from her son, but she arranges a brief visit with her son. In one page, Tolstoy describes this brief visit — the enormous love of the mother for her son, the enormous sorrow that she must be separated from him. It’s one of the most moving passages I’ve ever read, it’s sublime rather than spicy. Waugh can’t match Tolstoy’s simplicity or his sublimity.

C. The Waugh Pattern

In earlier issues, I’ve discussed The Shakespeare Pattern, The Kafka Pattern, The Hardy Pattern, etc. What’s The Waugh Pattern? What’s the channel in which Waugh’s imagination usually travels? What are the recurring character-types in Waugh’s work? A critic named Marston LaFrance said that Brideshead follows the same pattern as Waugh’s earlier comic novels:

One might well begin with Brideshead Castle itself. By 1945 [when Brideshead Revisited was published] no reader of Mr. Waugh’s fiction should have been surprised at finding yet another great house in the new novel. King’s Thursday [in Decline and Fall], Anchorage House [in Vile Bodies], Doubting Hall [also in Vile Bodies], Hetton Abbey [in Handful of Dust], Boot Magna [in Scoop], Malfrey [in Put Out More Flags] — all of Mr. Waugh’s great houses represent the stability of England’s past when the national life was under the control of a responsible aristocracy. All of these houses are in decline, whether from outright destruction (King’s Thursday) or a gradual decay of the family line (Doubting Hall, Hetton, Brideshead), and their decline functions as a sort of graph of the aristocracy’s increasing irresponsibility and loss of power.3

As for the characters in Brideshead,

Notice that Basil Seal appears in both Black Mischief and Put Out More Flags. One finds the same characters, with the same names, in different Waugh novels. As Proust said, “The great men of letters have never created more than a single work, or rather have never done more than refract through various mediums an identical beauty which they bring into the world.” Perhaps novelists have five or six recurring characters because they had five or six important relationships in their own lives; their characters are based on people they knew, people who figured prominently in their lives.

Marston LaFrance argues that not only are the Brideshead characters similar to those in Waugh’s earlier novels, but

the general structure of this novel is the same as that of the earlier works: an innocent hero is introduced, through an emissary, by mere chance, into a strange environment which acts upon him to the extent of making him either an exploiter or a victim of this environment.

Brideshead ends with Charles in the victim role: “I’m homeless, childless, middle-aged, love-less.”

Brideshead is often called Waugh’s first novel, his first attempt to create three-dimensional, realistic characters, rather than comic caricatures. By the end of the novel, however, Waugh has slipped back into his earlier style (according to LaFrance), and the characters have become “pasteboard puppets.” Stephen Spender argued that Brideshead lacks “moral proportion,” it tries to “state comic seriousness... as didactic moralizing, and the absurd as sober truth.” Waugh tries to combine the comic and the Catholic, and can’t create an organic whole. LaFrance concludes thus: “An attempt to force a serious frame of reference upon an unconscious use of the comic tradition has not been entirely successful.”

D. A Psychologist Looks At Brideshead

A psychologist named Brian Edwards argues that the Brideshead characters are more realistic than critics think. Edwards notes that Bridey is a good example of the eldest child:

First-borns have the advantage of substantial parental investment. In order to maintain their status, first-borns adopt parental values and guard jealously their positions.... First-borns tend to be... rigid in their beliefs, more close-minded, and less adventuresome, or as Charles describes Brideshead [also known as “Bridey”]: “He had a kind of mad certainty about everything which made his decisions swift and easy.”4

Bridey is very different from his younger brother, the rambunctious Sebastian. Bridey is called “a very quiet gentleman, quite like an old man.” Edwards describes Bridey as “a sober, serious student who joins conservative clubs.”

Bridey’s father (Lord Marchmain) abandoned the family and went to Venice, so Bridey has become “the man of the house,” the paterfamilias. Psychologists call this “parentification.”

Lord Marchmain’s eldest son [i.e. Bridey] has been pushed to play Lord Marchmain’s role, a developmental task for which he is unsuited, for much of his life. It is a role the son enacts out of devotion to his mother, but which has made him an enemy and/or rival in his father’s eyes. Thus when the time comes for him to inherit, Lord Marchmain capriciously blocks his oldest son’s inheritance.5

Why did Lord Marchmain abandon the family? In the parlance of psychology, husband and wife form a “dyad,” and

dyads are thought to be inherently unstable as each member of the pair-bond seeks to develop a new self who is now part of a larger entity. During the inevitable pushes and pulls to establish a balance between intimacy and self-independence, the pair-bond can become unstable.6

Perhaps the “pushes and pulls” are more intense if one spouse is immature, and has to grow a lot to achieve a measure of independence. One character in Brideshead (Cara) says that Lord Marchmain wasn’t grown-up when he married. Is immaturity a common cause of marital problems? Is the divorce rate higher for people who marry at 20 than for people who marry at 30?

The tensions in the parental dyad are often managed by bringing in a third party, a lover or a child. This is called “triangulating,” and it can cause problems for the child. The main problem in the Marchmain family — the visible problem or surface problem — is Sebastian’s drinking, but this problem is a by-product of tensions in the parental dyad.

Tensions in the parental dyad often lead to tensions between parent and child, especially between father and child. “Lord Marchmain [refuses] to communicate with any of his children except Sebastian.” Lord Marchmain becomes disengaged, while Lady Marchmain becomes overly engaged, she triangulates, to compensate for her estrangement from her husband. Knapp describes triangulating as “where one or the other spouse may be enmeshed (overly involved) with, say, the child while the other is disengaged or uninvolved.”

Sebastian plays the role of scapegoat, he’s blamed for the family’s problems, he’s “the misfit ostracized by the family, which explains why in his first visit to Brideshead with Charles, Sebastian says, ‘This is where my family live,’” instead of saying, “This is my home.” Sebastian “engages in outrageous behavior... to differentiate himself from his older brother,” and receive parental attention.

I discussed birth order in my book of aphorisms:

Since an eldest child is valued by his parents, he sees himself as valuable, takes himself seriously, takes life seriously, and develops self-discipline. A younger child, on the other hand, values himself less, and often lacks self-discipline; this lack of self-discipline shows itself in a variety of ways, including alcohol problems and drug problems. Consider, for example, the Carter brothers, Jimmy and Billy. The elder brother, Jimmy, became President through his self-discipline and determination, while Billy was known for his undisciplined behavior.

Waugh himself was an undisciplined younger son. Someone asked him, Did you row for your college? Play cricket? Waugh said, I drank for my college.

After his wife dies, Lord Marchmain returns to England, and there’s a “war of succession,” a competition among the siblings for the father’s love, and the father’s mansion. “After being virtually absent from his children’s lives until after their mother dies, [Lord Marchmain] seems to enjoy making them compete for his affection, and thus Brideshead Castle.” As one psychologist put it, “when a parent abandons the family or dies, the siblings then compete more deliberately for the attention of the remaining parent.”

The younger generation often borrows from the playbook of their parents. Sebastian, for example, flees England as his father did. As for Julia, “when the marriage to Rex Mottram sours, she flees to America with a lover, as her father fled to Italy with his mistress.” History repeats itself, or perhaps I should say, family history repeats itself. As Lady Marchmain says, “It’s all happened before.”

We saw earlier that Lord Marchmain wasn’t grown up when he got married. Sebastian is also slow to grow up:

Sebastian asserts control over his own life through his addiction, his childhood regression (manifest in Aloysius, the teddy bear), and his rebellion against his Catholic faith and his mother’s values. In his role as family scapegoat, he aligns himself with Lord Marchmain by constantly attempting to escape from his family, evident in the following conversation with Charles at Easter. Charles begins, “Well, I don’t happen to like running away,” to which Sebastian replies: “And I couldn’t care less. And I shall go on running away, as far and as fast as I can. You can hatch any plot you like with my mother; I shan’t come back.”

Sebastian’s mother, Lady Marchmain, appears to be a pious martyr, but she may have a hand in the flights of her husband and son, she may be subtly manipulative. According to Edwards, Charles is

intuitively aware... that Lady Marchmain is not only the quiet martyr she plays.... Lord Marchmain might have started drinking to cope with his wife triangulating with her children and colluding with the servants to control his behavior, to force him to meet his duties and responsibilities as a marquis.

Edwards describes Lady Marchmain as “a first-born, and essentially an alpha male despite her gender.” She acts “aggressively” to keep her family on track. Her husband, also a first-born, chafes under her assertive, controlling behavior, he “construes Lady Marchmain’s assertion as a challenge to his individualism.” He abandons the family, and flees to Venice.

Edwards says that Lady Marchmain is “haunted by her failure to protect her own family’s heritage.” Her family had “a wide property and an ancient name,” and needed a son to continue the dynasty. Lady Marchmain was the first child, then two more girls were born. “After the birth of the third daughter there had been pilgrimages and pious benefactions in request for a son.” The prayers were answered, three sons were born, but all three died in World War I.

When her three brothers die [Edwards writes], Lady Marchmain reverts to emotional behavior prior to the birth of those brothers.... Lady Marchmain relies on prayer because that is what her family did to produce a male heir. Since the nine-year-old girl’s prayers were answered, one could understand how it would have a lasting and profound effect.

Lady Marchmain grooms Sebastian to replace her dead brothers, she “unwittingly attempted to substitute her son for those brothers. Unfortunately, Sebastian cannot replace Lady Marchmain’s idealized Uncle Ned.” Lady Marchmain has a book compiled about her brothers. In this book, the brothers are depicted “in all the full flood of academic and athletic success, of popularity and the promise of great rewards ahead.” Edwards asks,

Is it any wonder that Sebastian, a closeted homosexual, as un-athletic as his Uncle Ned was athletic, whom Anthony Blanche has characterized as not too bright, would attempt to escape his “destiny” in “Mummy’s” master plan?

Julia says, “Anything Uncle Ned did was always perfect,” and Sebastian tells Charles, “Uncle Ned is the test you know.” When Sebastian is caught drinking, Charles says, “Everyone was exceedingly sorry for Lady Marchmain whose brothers’ names stood in letters of gold on the war memorial, whose brothers’ memory was fresh in many breasts.”

Lady Marchmain’s behavior as a wife and mother is shaped by her childhood experiences. As one psychologist said, “I no longer believe in individuals; rather, I think of scapegoats, sent out by their families-of-origin to do battle with their new spouse over whose family they will recreate.”7

We saw earlier that Bridey is a classic example of an eldest child, devoted to his mother, adopting his mother’s values and his mother’s Catholicism. The youngest child, Cordelia, has the “tendency for adventure” that’s often found in later-born children; Cordelia goes to Spain during the Spanish Civil War. But Cordelia isn’t a “pure rebel,” she also “assumes the first-born martyr’s role her mother played.”

Why does Cordelia have some first-born traits? The last-born child, if she’s many years younger than the other children, is a kind of only child (the only child not yet grown up). As Edwards says,

The higher the birth order, the more divergent the sibling becomes in finding a niche unoccupied by older siblings. An exception, however... can occur when six or more years elapse between births, as is the case with the last-born, Cordelia. In such cases, the last-born might actually behave more like a first-born, which Cordelia certainly does as she assumes the first-born martyr’s role her mother played, but one that couples her later-born tendency for adventure.

So Cordelia has a mix of last-born traits and first-born traits.

At the end of Brideshead, Julia chooses Catholicism and breaks off her affair with Charles. According to Edwards, this isn’t a religious conversion but rather a conversion to her mother’s ways, to “the myth of faith that was her mother’s hope.” Julia’s “conversion” is an attempt to restore family equilibrium (sometimes called “homeostasis”).

At the end of the novel, Julia, Bridey, and Cordelia are still held by the “gravitational field” of the family, they haven’t “effectively differentiated from the original family system.” All three are in Palestine (in the early years of World War II). As Nanny puts it, “they’re together still as they have been all the time.”

It’s astonishing how life-like Waugh’s characters are, and how closely they match the findings of psychology. The title of Edwards’ essay is “Waugh’s Intuition.” Doubtless Waugh created his characters intuitively, not consciously. I’ve often argued that genius is a matter of intuition, semi-conscious thought, not conscious or rational thinking. Perhaps Waugh didn’t fully understand his own characters; his characters seem to have acquired a life of their own, beyond Waugh’s conscious mind.

The full title of Edwards’ essay is “Waugh’s Intuition: An FST Approach to Brideshead Revisited.” FST is a new school of psychology; FST stands for Family Systems Therapy (or Family Systems Theory). FST emphasizes families rather than individuals, just as Systems Theory emphasizes the whole rather than the part, and Quantum Physics emphasizes the whole rather than the individual particle. FST says to literary critics, “Don’t look at characters without considering family context,” just as the physicist Heisenberg said, “There is a fundamental error in separating the parts from the whole, the mistake of atomizing what should not be atomized. Unity and complementarity constitute reality.”

E. Final Thoughts

One often finds a Zen spirit in the work of E. M. Forster. Waugh doesn’t have Forster’s deep interest in Eastern wisdom, but Waugh is a highly intelligent writer, and in one sentence he describes the Zen situation: “‘Sometimes,’ said Julia, ‘I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.’” The goal of Zen is to make room for the present, appreciate the present.

One also finds glimpses of the occult in Waugh, though he isn’t preoccupied with the occult. When Bridey invites Charles to a party at his club, Charles later recalls, “Even on that convivial evening I could feel my host emanating little magnetic waves of social uneasiness, creating, rather, a pool of general embarrassment about himself.” The occult is often compared to electricity or magnetism.

Another example of the occult. When Charles is at a dinner on an ocean liner, he “felt like Lear on the heath.” A few minutes later, “only Julia, my wife, and I were left at the table, and, telepathically, Julia said, ‘Like King Lear.’” This is a common type of telepathy. As Goethe said,

It has often happened to me that, when I have been walking with an acquaintance, and have had a living image of something in my mind, he has at once begun to speak of that very thing. I have also known a man who [like Bridey], without saying a word, could suddenly silence a party engaged in cheerful conversation, by the mere power of his mind.... We have all something of electrical and magnetic forces within us, and we put forth, like the magnet itself, an attractive or repulsive power.8

Goethe and Waugh noticed the same occult phenomena. Great writers often notice occult phenomena in their daily lives, they wonder about them, and they write about them. Great writers are as fascinated by the occult as academics are bothered by it. (I recently heard of an academic who said that reading an essay on ESP made him feel sick.)

Several passages in Brideshead require an explanatory footnote. For example, the narrator’s cousin, Jasper, tells the narrator that Anthony Blanche isn’t well thought of, and “he was in Mercury again last night.” How can the reader know that Mercury is a fountain at Oxford, and that Anthony Blanche has been dunked in the fountain? Fortunately there’s a website that has footnotes for Brideshead. (Click here for a site that has footnotes for Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy.) Footnotes are also available in the new Oxford edition of Waugh’s complete works.

I recommend the 11-hour TV version of Brideshead, which was made in 1981. It’s a tasteful blend of music, scenery, and language; it achieves a lyrical beauty that’s rare in television. It’s much better than the 2008 Brideshead movie.

© L. James Hammond 2019
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1. “Yale Alumni Stage an Intervention”, RealClearEducation.com back
2. The Catholic Revival in English Literature, Ch. 6 back
3. “Context and Structure of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited,” Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Apr., 1964), pp. 12-18, jstor.org/stable/440467 back
4. “Waugh’s Intuition: An FST [Family Systems Therapy] Approach to Brideshead Revisited,” Interdisciplinary Literary Studies, Vol. 13, No. 1/2 (Fall 2011), pp. 1-18, jstor.org/stable/41328509

Edwards was influenced by Frank Sulloway’s work on birth order. back

5. Knapp: “Parentification may occur when a child assumes or is assigned a parental role (e.g., primary emotional bonding or primary breadwinner tasks).”(“Family Systems Psychotherapy, Literary Character, and Literature: An Introduction”) back
6. “Family Systems Psychotherapy, Literary Character, and Literature: An Introduction,” by John V. Knapp, Style, Vol. 31, No. 2, Family Systems Psychotherapy and Literature/LiteraryCriticism (Summer 1997), pp. 223-254, jstor.org/stable/45063758

Knapp says, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts (the principle of emergence), so that to understand a member of a fictional family, one needs to understand the family system.... It is important when looking at an emergent family system not to fall into the other extremity, ‘holistic reductionism,’ which leaves the represented person (and his/her ethical responsibilities) out of the system.... The therapist must sometimes reduce his/her attention to one or more [individuals]. Reduction — in therapy, literary criticism, and psychological research — is a necessary complement to emergence....

“One of the most significant tasks for the family is to provide support for both integration into a solid family unit and differentiation into relatively independent selves — to think, act, and feel for oneself. This mutual process is lifelong, as members of one’s primary group change from family-of-origin to one’s created (married, cohabitating, close-knit intimates) family....

“In functional families, each member develops a solid self, able to act, think, and feel so that the inside and outside of the self are usually congruent. In dysfunctional families, fear and anxiety usually force members to create a pseudo-self, so that one’s inner feelings and outer behavior are often not congruent.” This can lead to a “double-bind” situation in which a child is receiving contradictory messages; for example, “love is expressed by words, and hate or detachment by nonverbal behavior.”(Wikipedia)

As Edwards draws on Knapp, so Knapp draws on the work of Sal Minuchin. Knapp quotes Minuchin: “Freud left intact the notion that the self is self-contained. Family therapy challenged the equally cherished belief in self-determination by illuminating the power of the family. It recognized men and women as parts of a larger system — as subsystems, albeit significant ones, of larger systems. For the family therapist the family was a unit, and when one or more members of the system posed a problem, the family was the site of intervention.”

Minuchin drew on the work of earlier thinkers, such as Gregory Bateson, who was interested in both Anthropology and Systems Theory.

When Knapp speaks of reduction and emergence, I’m reminded of intellectual history. Some eras, such as the Renaissance, emphasize emergence and holistic thinking, while other eras, such as the era of Newton and Descartes, emphasize reduction/separation/isolation. back

7. Carl Whitaker, quoted in the epigraph of “Family Systems Psychotherapy, Literary Character, and Literature: An Introduction”

I also looked at Edwards’ essay on D. H. Lawrence, “The Inhibited Temperament in Sons and Lovers” (Style, Vol. 44, No. 1-2, New Psychologies and Modern Assessments, Spring/Summer 2010, pp. 62-80). In this essay, Edwards draws on the distinction between inhibited and uninhibited personalities, a distinction first made by Jerome Kagan. Kagan’s distinction is derived from Jung’s distinction between introverted and extroverted personalities. The root of these personality types, according to Edwards, is brain chemistry, not childhood experience.

In Sons and Lovers, Paul represents Lawrence himself. Edwards argues that “What Paul’s character reveals to us is a hypersensitive individual who relies on a strong bond with his mother to help him cope with an inhibited temperament that is his by nature.” Miriam, Paul’s friend, is also inhibited. When Paul tries to find a job, “he went through agonies of shrinking self-consciousness.”

Edwards speaks of, “the inhibited temperament tendency to be highly critical of the self and to fret over criticisms — real or imagined — from others.” The inhibited temperament is prone to “anxiety, shame, and guilt,” and to “bouts of fear and depression.” Paul/Lawrence has the physical traits that Kagan says are characteristic of the inhibited personality: “A slightly shorter stature, lighter weight, and blue eyes.” Kagan says that inhibited types are “dependent for emotional support on family, friends, or spouses,” as Paul depends on the support of his mother and Miriam.

Paul and Miriam are inhibited sexually. “He had no aversion for her,” Lawrence writes. “No, it was the opposite: it was a strong desire battling with a still stronger shyness and virginity. It seemed as if virginity were a positive force, which fought and won in both of them.”

Lawrence seemed to overcome his inhibitions after he met his wife, Frieda. When Frieda asked Lawrence “what she gave him that other women had not,” he responded, “You make me sure of myself, whole.”

For more on this subject, see Jerome Bump’s essay, “D. H. Lawrence and Family Systems Theory,” Renascence 44.1 (1991): 61-80. For a FamilySystems approach to E. M. Forster, see Kenneth Womack’s essay, “‘Only Connecting’ with the Family: Class, Culture, and Narrative Therapy in E. M. Forster’s Howards End,” Style, Vol. 31, No. 2, Summer 1997 back

8. Conversations with Eckermann, 10/7/27 back