Reading to the dormitory

Anything that doesn't fit anywhere else, but that's still CH related.

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sejintenej
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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by sejintenej » Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:53 am

keibat wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:44 pm
She told me later that she tried to say something suitably imprecise, about its depiction of sexuality, and the kinds of language used. "What do you mean?" – "Well, the words that Lawrence uses" – "What words?" – and here, if I have understood correctly, Forum protocol even in 2018 dictates that I may not cite the vocabulary in question – but my mum said something like, "Oh, you know, F---- and C---." Shocked silence in the staffroom – No, her colleagues had NOT understood that Those Words were being used!
This shows perfectly the way in which people were expected to behave in thoise days. Assuming that the F and C refer to four leter words I can assure you that those words and similar were used by the upper class between themselves (but never in front of the staff). They could have "interesting" parties behind closed doors.
As an opposite to this, death was handlewd in a totally different way - it was a normal experience and not hidden as it is today. (I remember seeing my first corpse at the age of six)
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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by michael scuffil » Wed Mar 28, 2018 1:39 pm

The trouble with the 'words' in Lady Chatterley is that as the main reason for the book's prohibition, they raised Lawrence almost to the status of martyr. At the trial, the Bishop of Woolwich, author of that work of pop-radical theology, 'Honest to God', when asked to expatiate on the book's 'ethical merit', went as far as to say that Lawrence (who was not a Christian) intended 'to portray the sex relationship as ... in a real sense a holy communion'. One really wonders what the bishop thought he was talking about: it was an adulterous relationship, after all.
Be that as it may: my whole reading of Lawrence was changed when I read what Bertrand Russell (who admits to a brief friendship with Lawrence) had to say about him. Basically that he was a Nazi avant la lettre. See especially vol. 2 of Russell's autobiography, pp. 243--246, which can be found here:

https://books.google.de/books?redir_esc ... ce&f=false
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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by rockfreak » Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:58 pm

Michael, as Keibat says, I do think you're in danger of shooting the messenger in order to kill the message. In the thirties - that low, dishonest decade (as I think Auden? described it) - both capitalism and democracy seemed to have collapsed and some otherwise intelligent people joined extreme movements of left and right (the Cambridge spies of course on the left). Eugenics, for instance, was then actually quite fashionable, particularly in Scandinavia, today's most advanced and liberal society. Until Hitler came along and gave it a bad name. I seem to remember in Lady Chatterley's Lover that the wounded and now impotent Clifford actually gives his wife the tacit nod to have an affair with one of his upper class officer friends. The problem comes when she decides that she doesn't much like his superior friends with their soulless, sardonic humour and falls in love with the gamekeeper.

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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by michael scuffil » Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:41 pm

I take your point. One might also note that in Germany at least, the 'life reform' people, who embraced things like dress reform (no stiff collars or corsets), vegetarianism, naturism, 'free love', were often fervent Nazis. This was in part because they had a common enemy: the 'bourgeois mentality' (Lawrence wrote a revolting poem on the theme, 'How Beastly the Bourgeois Is'). We can see the same sort of thing at a different level in Look Back in Anger: Jimmy Porter is your archetypal fascist, though few have pointed this out. Malcolm, in Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs, is the same, though rather more explicitly. But public figures (including writers) who rail against bourgeois values have a duty, it seems to me, to think their position through. The would-be anti-bourgeois left, in Russia and E. Europe, became more bourgeois than the bourgeois once they took power. The Nazis did not.
But as to DH Lawrence, the evidence is pretty damning. He wasn't just the messenger, nor a naive 'life reformer' dabbling in the fashionable eccentricities of the day. He embraced the Nazi ideology through and through. Read the section on Philosophy and Politics in his Wikipedia entry.
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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by Fidésien » Mon Apr 02, 2018 5:48 pm

Although I don’t remember much of what happened fifty plus years ago, unlike most contributors to this site, I am pretty sure that no-one read Lady Chatterley’s Lover to us ! Not in Lamb A dorm. The only books that I remember being read to us were PC Wren’s Beau Geste and John Buchan’s Greenmantle; both excellent adventure stories of their time. Although I was usually too tired to stay awake long enough to hear what happened. Looking back I suspect that both books have passages that are casually racist and anti-Semitic (the pawnshop episode in Beau Geste). But I suppose that both these attitudes would have been acceptable to our housemaster. Unlike raw, heterosexual sex.

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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by keibat » Thu Apr 05, 2018 9:02 pm

Fidésien, no one, I think, has claimed that Lady Chatterley's Lover was ever read to a dorm –but there were copies in circulation, somewhat clandestinely.
Reverting to the vocabulary issue, it strikes me that as I have gradually come to realize (and certainly didn't know 50 years ago) the males of the privileged classes were indeed already using the '4-letter words' to refer laddishly to sexual organs and activities, while the males of the (rough) working classes employed them NOT for that but as swearwords. The great majority of CH pupils came neither from the one nor the other of these social extremes, and in my recollection were rather inhibited in their swearing, at least.

(When I was about 18, so in the early 1960s, I had a summer job one year as a porter on the Hull wholesale fruit market, my first closer contact, really, with the manual working class – as opposed to the respectable skilled upper working and lower clerical classes, with whom my family had extensive connections. It was perhaps in my third week there that one day I snapped at someone and used f***ing - which triggered a burst of laughter, as the foreman crowed "At last! He's said it!" )

Whereas nowadays, the swearing use has become near-universal across classes and genders and even to some extent agegroups, but – it seems to me – the literal use, which DHL was arguing for as 'authentic', is still relatively restricted (though far more widespread than half a century ago).
And what vocabulary did the manual working class at that time use to refer to copulation? I rather suspect that they paradoxically resorted to the same prudish euphemisms as the respectable middling classes – sleep with, to refer to a very non-somnolent activity, for example. Can any forumist offer a better-informed insight?

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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by rockfreak » Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:03 pm

I think I can assure Keibat that Shagging about covered it for the working classes and many of the middle. Much like today in fact. Now, only when I submit this entry will I find out whether the designers of this site have starred it out.

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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by rockfreak » Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:05 pm

Ha Ha! No, there it is! Shagging in all its glory! There's hope yet.

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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by michael scuffil » Mon Apr 09, 2018 2:31 pm

Or 'screwing'.

Or 'getting your finger out and getting stuck in' (admonition from impatient female partner, and the true origin of these phrases).
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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by keibat » Wed Apr 11, 2018 10:36 pm

The problem, I submit [he says, somewhat prissily] with both shagging and screwing, tho' more so with the former, is that – to my Sprachgefühl, anyway – these words have and even more had very laddish overtones. Where laddishness has now blurred with lassishness, this probably doesn't matter any more; but in an age of more clearly opposed gender roles, I feel they were about male satisfaction (and perhaps conquest), rather than about a mutual, reciprocal sexuality - and however fascist Lawrence was in some ways, in this regard, surely, he was on the right track. Nowadays I can easily imagine hearing a couple talking about shagging in a mutually positive way. Fifty-sixty years ago, I'm not convinced.

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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by J.R. » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:04 pm

How times change !!
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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by rockfreak » Sat Apr 14, 2018 9:01 pm

Keibat, this is exactly what Nick Duffell is saying in his books on "boarding school survivor syndrome" and the way that our class system has encouraged chauvinism and snobbery, at a time when this sort of nonsense has been largely consigned to history in other western European states. He believes that our whole rigmarole of empire, boarding schools, stiff upper lip, worship of the military, etc, has produced a nation that is emotionally illiterate and unable to look outwards and embrace other nations as a player rather than wanting to dominate all the time. We've never got shot of having lost an empire and this need to dominate runs to our personal relationships as well. Lawrence, for all his personal faults and beliefs, appears to have sussed this out as well. Duffell mentions how, in Lady Chatterley, he manages to get inside the heads of Connie and other female characters in the book; no mean feat for a male writer in the 1930s, or some might say, in the present day. What is the proof of all this? I give you David Cameron, George Osborne, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Jacob Rees-Mogg...........

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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by keibat » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:39 pm

Dear Rockfreak:
this sort of nonsense has been largely consigned to history in other western European states
Alas, this is extraordinarily blue-eyed about other western European states – not to mention those a tad further east. Le Pen's National Front? The populists in the Netherlands? The Sweden-Democrats and the True Finns?

I think it's a fairly well-established interpretation that the creation of the single-sex boarding-school sector during the Victorian era was indeed linked to the needs of the Empire, but I seriously question whether "boarding school survivor syndrome" can be made responsible for the emotional health of the entire British population, since only around 5% of them have ever attended boarding schools. Yes, this 5%-or-so correspond with the hegemonic class groupings in British society, and until really quite recently "boarding school survivors" also dominated English literary culture; so down to the mid-C20 – and indeed beyond – we get a massive over-representation of this class in the fiction that got taken seriously. Children's books were also astonishingly dominated by this class. Even Paddington, after all, finds himself in a family whose kids go to boarding school - let alone classics from earlier in the century like Arthur Ransome, Enid Blyton, or for that matter C S Lewis. (And I don't get the link between your list of obnoxious Tories and literary culture!)

If you want an explanation for the crass insularity and xenophobia which are undoubtedly currently on the rampage in this country, a far more convincing culprit is the popular press, which ever since the First World War has understood that the way to keep sales up is to highlight hate and hateful things and people.

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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by rockfreak » Fri Apr 20, 2018 6:45 pm

Nick Duffell's theory in his second book Wounded Leaders, and one that I can understand, is that the type of person produced by the boarding schools has dominated our national psyche for two hundred years. I read a comment from a woman in a national tabloid who said that she thought David Cameron was a superb example of our ruling class. Ruling class!! Is there another country in developed Europe where you would hear someone using in all sincerity a phrase that I rather imagined had disappeared shortly after the second world war! We're still bedazzled by these bl**dy people. This is why we believe the lies they tell in order to get into power. They speak well, they exude confidence and they have contacts after school and uni. Toby Young, a grammar school boy who nonetheless also seems impressed while still questioning the whole establishment shtick, records how when he was at Oxford David Cameron and Boris Johnson seemed to be running the Oxford Union just as they'd run everything at Eton.
Now yes, I know that Mrs Thatcher and Theresa May didn't go this route but don't you get the impression that they've absorbed some of it? The bossy, head mistressy delivery, the talking down their noses to the rest of us. Compare them with leaders like Angela Merkl and Mark Rutte; they look and sound like what they are - two punters who have come up through the ranks to run their country. This is the country that had enormous television success with Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey. I believe that this is because we can't get this class nonsense out of our souls. By the way, I've got another of my letters in the Guardian today in answer to Robert Halfon, a self proclaimed working class Tory MP who got an assisted place at a private school and is asking for more bursaries and assisted places for poorer youngsters. Complete red herring, said I. Only 7% can go anyway. This is just more outdated Victorian philanthropy.

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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by michael scuffil » Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:41 pm

Yes, this 5%-or-so correspond with the hegemonic class groupings in British society, and until really quite recently "boarding school survivors" also dominated English literary culture; so down to the mid-C20 – and indeed beyond – we get a massive over-representation of this class in the fiction that got taken seriously. Children's books were also astonishingly dominated by this class. Even Paddington, after all, finds himself in a family whose kids go to boarding school - let alone classics from earlier in the century like Arthur Ransome, Enid Blyton, or for that matter C S Lewis.

It is a staple of children's fiction that the children in the story must be either beyond, or almost beyond, close adult (i.e. parental) control. One of the easiest ways to provide a setting for this is the '(boarding) school story', recently dragged out of storage by JKRowland, of course. As boarding schools were overwhelmingly upper-middle class, and so were most writers, it is not too surprising that this was the ethos reflected.
(Of course in countries without such a tradition, authors have to find other mechanisms: so we have free-range kids like Pippi Longstocking and Ronja the Robber's Daughter.
Philip Pullman of course sent his kids off to parallel universes, where among other things they witness (literally) the death of God. Some might say this was going over the top.)
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