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Kuttner, A.B. (1916). “Sons and Lovers”: A Freudian Appreciation. Psychoanal. Rev., 3(3):295-317.

(1916). Psychoanalytic Review, 3(3):295-317

Critical Review

“Sons and Lovers”: A Freudian Appreciation

Review by:
Alfred Booth Kuttner

Poets and novelists often strive for impressiveness in their creations by dealing in strange plots and adventures or in monstrous and unnatural loves. The advantages gained may well be called in question: to be grotesque is hardly ever to be great and the bizarre may survive as a demerit after it is exhausted as a sensation. The great literature of life is after all built around the commonplace. The Odyssey treats of a bad case of homesickness, a thing which we all understand perfectly. The drama of Œdipus depicts an incestuous relationship, and we do not have to be told that it is horrible. What distinguishes enduring literature is not novelty, but freshness of feeling, and that pointed insight into life which reveals a vivid personality keenly alive. Sons and Lovers has the great distinction of being very solidly based upon a veritable commonplace of our emotional life; it deals with a son who loved his mother too dearly, and with a mother who lavished all her affection upon her son.

Neither this distinction nor its undeniable freshness and often amazing style would of itself entitle Mr. D. H. Lawrence's novel to anything beyond an appreciative book review. But it sometimes happens that a piece of literature acquires an added significance by virtue of the support it gives to the scientific study of human motives. Literary records have the advantage of being the fixed and classic expression of human emotions which in the living individual are usually too fluid and elusive for deliberate study. The average man, subjected to what seems to him a kind of psychological vivisection, is apt to grow reticent, and mankind must often be convicted through its literature of impulses which under direct scrutiny it would acknowledge only with the greatest reluctance or else deny altogether. Literature thus becomes an invaluable accessory to the psychologist, who usually does well to regard with suspicion any new generalization from his researches for which the whole range of literary expression yields no corroboration. But if he can succeed in finding support there his position is immensely strengthened.

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