Showing posts with label emmanuelle vaugier. Show all posts
Showing posts with label emmanuelle vaugier. Show all posts

21 Jul 2019

What Big Teeth You Have: Notes on D. H. Lawrence and Dental Morphology

The kind of woman D. H. Lawence dreams of ...
Emmanuelle Vaugier as Madison in the hit 
American TV series Supernatural [S2/E17] 


If you ask your dentist about teeth, they'll probably bore on about the different types (incisors, canines, and molars), what their function is (to cut, tear, and crush items of food), where they're located (upper and lower jaws), what they're made of (enamel, dentin, cementum, and pulp) and why it's important for our health and wellbeing to take care of our teeth and gums (prone as they are to decay and disease). 

Perhaps, if they really know their stuff, your dentist might even give you an insight into the evolutionary history of hominid teeth and their changing morphology. But mostly they'll just want you to upgrade your dental plan or agree to another series of X-rays.  


Ask D. H. Lawrence about teeth, however, and you'll get a very different kind of answer. For although Lawrence wasn't a dentist - he's primarily remembered today (if at all) as a novelist and poet - he did have a fascination with teeth as the instruments of our sensual will.

What does that mean?

It means that their development is controlled from the two great sensual centres below the diaphragm; particularly the voluntary centre: "The growth and the life of the teeth depends almost entirely on the lumbar ganglion."

I don't know if that's true or not and don't really care. What interests me more - and what does have basis in scientific fact - is Lawrence's claim that the mouths of modern human beings have become smaller than those of their primal ancestors:

"For many ages we have been suppressing the [...] sensual will [... and] converting ourselves into ideal creatures, all spiritually conscious, and active dynamically only on one plane, the upper, spiritual plane. Our mouth has contracted, our teeth have become soft and unquickened."

Worse, they give us trouble all the time and many people end up having to wear false teeth - a sure sign for Lawrence of an individual who is "spirit-rotten and idea-rotten". In other words, dentures indicate degeneracy.

Perhaps not surprisingly to those who are familiar with his work, Lawrence also relates his dental philosophy to his thinking on race and ethnicity; it is white people who have no room in their little pinched mouths for the healthy teeth possessed by negroes.

The dark-skinned races have wisely resisted the urge to forfeit their flashing sensual power and submit to the self-conscious love-ideal. Lawrence envies them their strong, resistant teeth - as he does their fullness of lips and thickness of nose; these things being indicative to him of the sensual-sympathetic mode of consciousness and the primary centre from which an individual or a people live.

Lawrence being Lawrence, however, he doesn't stop here. Ultimately, even black people don't quite have the gnashers he lycanthropically fantasises: "Where [...] are the sharp and vivid teeth of the wolf, keen to defend and devour?"

Only if we possessed the large teeth of predators - including 2" fangs - would men and women find happiness, says Lawrence.

See: D. H. Lawrence, Fantasia of the Unconscious, ed. Bruce Steele, (Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 99-100.