chapter  1
41 Pages

Erasmus and the Dung Beetle; or, Human Exceptionalism and Its Discontents

WithBenjamin Bertram

This chapter argues that Erasmus's antiwar literature, and especially the essays in Adagia, reveal two contrasting ecologies: an ecology of peace based on Christian humanist ideals of friendship, and a "dung beetle ecology," a heterotopian offshoot of the ecology of war. Dung beetle ecology, which includes elements of base matter repressed by the ecology of peace is where people find a potentially productive form of strife, including class conflict, along with a tragic, and certainly less idealized, notion of friendship. The human/beast distinction is central to antiwar literature of Erasmus, his work does not allow people to feel complacent about their supposedly special status, nor does it allow them to feel confident when they attempt to make such a distinction. If posthumanism is characterized by uncertainty about human exceptionalism based on rationality, then Erasmus may have been the first posthumanist.