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Lawrence among the Machines

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Lawrence among the Machines

The title echoes ‘Darwin among the Machines’, an early draft of material eventually incorporated into Samuel Butler’s Erewhon (1872). In their reading of Erewhon, Deleuze and Guattari are fascinated by a point of semantic ‘nondifference or dispersion’, at which the organic-machine binary appears to dissolve, so that the ‘real difference’ is between ‘two states of the machine that are two states of the living as well’. To place Darwin among the Machines was, for Butler, to suggest that machinery was integral to the processes of human evolution, blurring the boundaries between organic and mechanical, and making of the self a distributed system.

What happens when we place D.H. Lawrence among the Machines? There is, we know, a Luddite Lawrence, but there is also a Deleuzian Lawrence, in whom the machine is being re-thought. This Lawrence may have been suppressed by a humanist tradition that required life and machines to be distinct – a tradition in which, for example, abstraction could only be thought as a threat or a ‘reproach’, as Peter Osborne has recently put it, to the primacy of sensuous particularity. In this paper, placing Lawrence among the Machines, I suggest that Lawrence’s engagement with the machine requires the same kind of critical attention as does the Deleuzian destabilizing of the machine. In each case, for example, while machine and organism are brought into crucial articulation, this cannot be said to constitute an organicizing of the machine pure and simple. Examples will be drawn from Lawrence’s fictional and philosophical writing.

Dr Jeff Wallace

University of Glamorgan

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