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New Left Review I/27, September-October 1964

Brian Way

Sex and Language

Obscene words in D. H. Lawrence and Henry Miller

Within the last four years, D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and the two Tropics of Henry Miller have at last been allowed to circulate freely. Both writers use the so-called ‘obscene’ words extensively, and the publicity given to the Lady Chatterley case, as well as the character of the books themselves, has strengthened the view that these words are an essential part of the writer’s vocabulary, and that they have special functions in literature which no other words can perform. We can be certain that they are going to be widely used in English fiction from now on (they are already a standard element in American novels), and so there is some point in looking at the practice of Lawrence and Miller to find out how useful the words are, and to suggest ways in which future novelists may be helped by the exploratory work of these pioneers.

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