Nietzsche contra Lawrence: How to be True to the Earth

2017-05-21T05:00:37Z (GMT) by Greg Garrard
Both Nietzsche and Lawrence have been identified as important forerunners and progenitors in the development of an ecocentric, “posthumanist” worldview. Nietzsche suggested, and Lawrence developed, the notion of an anti-mechanistic “gay science”. Both writers rejected the Christian denigration of nature, the Romantic notion of a “return to nature” and the instrumentalisation of nature by industrial rationality in favour of a conception of the good life founded in the body and an almost utopian “ascent to nature”. However, since the ascent to nature required an overcoming of existing humanity, both Nietzsche and Lawrence faced the task of articulating a conception of the Over-man – or post-human, as contemporary theory would put it – that is not merely a figure of authoritarian brutality. Deep ecologist Del Ivan Janik has claimed that Lawrence “saw man as part of an organic universe, living best by acknowledging its wonder and rejecting the temptation to force his will upon it. In this sense he stands at the beginning of the modern posthumanist tradition and of the literature of environmental consciousness.” Accurate as this assessment is, however, the struggle with questions of power, gender, sexuality and religion that early posthumanism involved has tended to be airbrushed out of the dark green reading of Lawrence. And Lawrence's personal spiritual and intellectual struggle was also a creative conflict with Nietzsche.