Lawrence: The Arch-Heretic

George Scialabba at Commonweal:

America meant all sorts of things to Lawrence, many of them adumbrated in his Studies in Classic American Literature (1923). In The Bad Side of Books, there’s an essay called “Pan in America” (1924), which starts from the cry that echoed around the Mediterranean as paganism faded: “The Great God Pan is dead!” What that meant, according to Lawrence, was that the possibility of life lived in spontaneous unison with nature dwindled as commerce, technology, and metaphysical religion advanced. Pan seemed still alive to Lawrence in the Indians of the Southwest, and he conjured a graphic account of the animist mind and imagination. But even there, Pan was “dying fast”; every Indian, Lawrence thought, “will kill Pan with his own hands for the sake of a motor car.” Who, given the choice the essay poses—“to live among the living, or to run on wheels”—would choose what Lawrence called “life”? Pretty much no one, he thought, though he returned to this opposition again and again.

more here.