Wednesday, May 20, 2015

D.H. Lawrence and the Courage To Be a Creature

Letter from D.H. Lawrence to Bertrand Russell, 1916

This letter is so much fun! D.H Lawrence tells (philosopher and mathematician) Bertrand Russell to come live near him, "but not if you are going to be a thinker and a worker, only if you are going to be a creature, an infant …"

He ends his letter with his love and the following pronouncement:

"Stop working and being an ego, & have the courage to be a creature."

Some questions you might consider:

Is this a post humanist perspective? How so?

How do you think this letter aligns with Elizabeth Costello's (and/or Coetzee's) discussion about the difference between philosophical and poetic discourse on the subject of other animals?

Does anything Lawrence says in this letter give you new insight into "The Snake" or "Man and Bat"?


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  2. It would not be accurate to call Lawrence's pronouncement a post humanist perspective because he creates a barrier between what it means to be human and animal. He fails to consider all the jobs animals work on every single day to keep natural systems running smoothly and keep the environment flourishing. He fails to understand that animals do in fact think in complex and critical ways to complete their daily tasks. Lawrence, on the contrary, appears to hold a humanistic view towards the world since he implies that if his friend gains "the courage to be a creature," he is supposedly letting go of the egotistic, complex life of a thinking, working human. This suggestion is ridiculous in that animals lives are individually complex in ways we'll likely never understand. Animals and infants are often lumped into the same category because they both cannot speak a language and both have the connotation of being weak and in need of a master to guide them.

    This letter gives light to the message of "Man and Bat" because it reflects the fact that humans and animals are exactly alike when they die and are therefore very much alike when alive. When killed, both humans and animals are being robbed of everything they once were and are left as nothing but a body; and this is what Lawrence does not acknowledge. Humans do not have any more of a right to live than animals do, and therefore they should not hold the power to dictate the fates of other animals, or pretend like animals are not intelligent and have complex emotions.