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date: 19 April 2018

Animal Studies and the Contemporary Novel

Summary and Keywords

Animals have prowled literature from its beginnings in the ancient world through medieval bestiaries and out from the margins of the novel in the modern era. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, animals’ literary presence has generated increasing critical interest. Animal studies, a relatively new interdisciplinary field, calls attention to the accelerating exploitation of animals in the period of industrial modernity and questions what it is possible to know about animals’ own experiences. Foundational theoretical approaches to understanding the historical and philosophical condition of thinking about animals—John Berger’s “Why Look at Animals?” (1972), Thomas Nagel’s “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” (1974), and Jacques Derrida’s “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)” (2002)—propose a fundamental aporia or gap between human and animal experiences, and they caution against the projection of anthropocentric categories onto animal lives. Many novels from this recent period likewise treat animals as charismatic strangers. Yet other contemporary literature sometimes reimagines human-animal relationships to insist on affinity and continuity. In such novels, animals prompt diverse and often experimental stylistic choices that put pressure on the novel’s traditional association with everyday life, the individual self, the boundaries of the nation, and empirical observation more broadly. Still, many recent novels remain essentially committed to a realist tradition. Some of these—most notably by J. M. Coetzee—depict relations of care between humans and often vulnerable or dependent animals that prompt reflection on the meaning of ethical action. In novels that purport to narrate from animals’ own perspective, writers likewise meditate on the ethics of interspecies relations as they use language innovatively in an effort to realistically evoke the sensorium of another species. Pushing the boundaries of realism, other novels reinvent the animal fable, using varying degrees of fantasy to imagine wild or domesticated animals as tropes that reflect upon human embodiment, community, and politics. Whether realist or fabulist, the novels of contemporary postcolonial and world literature particularly explore the power and limits of mapping histories of human belonging and domination onto animal figures, even as they often highlight the limitations of these comparisons. Not all of these approaches are equally invested in creating a literature that could materially impact the lives of animals in an era of diminishing biodiversity. However, uniting this varied and ever-growing array of novels is a question of how literature can represent the lives of intimately entangled bodies in a globalizing world.

Keywords: animal studies, contemporary literature, postcolonial studies, anthropocentrism, genre fiction, literature and ethics, theory of the novel, ecocriticism

Animal Lives, Novel Forms

In the contemporary novel, who counts? How do narratives shape perceptions of species?1 From 18th-century pet narratives to late-19th-century animal autobiographies to Franz Kafka’s “biocentric” stories, animals have remained a constant but often minor presence in fiction.2 Broadly, the scholarship about the status of animals critiques the profound anthropocentrism of a culture that instrumentalizes their lives, refusing to grant them moral consideration. Literary animal studies particularly raises questions of animals’ figurative significance, how to represent animal experience in human language, whether it is truly possible to develop a nonanthropocentric mode of writing, and how representations of nonhuman subjects might evoke sympathies or affinities among species.

Contemporary world literature, moreover, shows novelists thinking through topics such as embodiment, cognition, race, and citizenship, and also calls attention to the role of formal and generic experimentation in reflecting on these categories. The novel form has traditionally privileged the modes of consciousness held—from the Enlightenment philosophers forward—to be exclusively human. However, novels often use animals to demonstrate considerable ambivalence toward the idealized liberal, Western subject and the literary forms that reinforce this ideal. While the novel has since its inception grappled with recognizing those people who remain nonsubjects, it has also experimented with acknowledging animals: using them as metaphors, depicting them as companions, and sometimes counting them as characters in themselves. Contemporary novels, especially, explore a long-standing alignment of the lives of animals with politically marginalized human subjects in order to think through the aesthetic, social, economic, ethical, and political consequences of overturning the presumption of the Western, liberal subject’s mastery. It is thus significant that literary animal studies read across world literature. The field certainly emphasizes Anglophone novels; in fact, in since 2000 major international literary prizes such as the Man Booker award have often been accorded to novels that take up themes of relations among species.3 Yet scholarship typically also considers texts that are part of a global market of literature in translation.

Since the late 20th century, when animal studies emerged as an interdisciplinary field, scholars have called attention to the accelerating exploitation of animals in the period of industrial modernity and questioned what it is possible to know about animals’ own experiences. Three major strands of scholarship consider “the animal question”: perspectives from comparative cognition and animal training, the animal rights and welfare movement grounded in philosophy and political science, and the poststructuralist antihumanist perspective grounded in the humanities. The training approach defends humans’ ability to collaborate with animals through the attentive shaping of animals’ species-bound cognitive capacities. The animal rights movement likewise emphasizes animals’ capacities, too often ignored within our culture, and argues that our understandings of moral consideration, subjectivity, and even citizenship should include nonhuman animals in order to diminish pervasive cruelty and injustice. Poststructuralist accounts reject both views as implying that “our responsibility to the animal other is grounded . . . in the fact that it exhibits in diminished form qualities, potentialities, or abilities that exist in their fullest realization in human beings.”4 Poststructuralism likewise attempts to extend the ethical consideration, but it turns to the status of animals to deconstruct “the person as an exclusive and exclusionary form of being,” in Roberto Esposito’s words.5 This line of thought has been most influential for literary animal studies. Texts such as John Berger’s “Why Look at Animals?” (1972), Jacques Derrida’s “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)” (2002), Cary Wolfe’s Animal Rites (2003), and Giorgio Agamben’s The Open (trans. 2003) theorize a fundamental aporia or gap between humans’ experiences and animals’ experiences, and even as they reject both categories as ontologically given, they caution against our almost inevitable projection of anthropocentric categories onto animals’ lives. In contrast, Donna Haraway’s work from the 1980s on argues for the constitutive heterogeneity of any living body as “always in-the-making; it is always a vital entanglement of heterogeneous scales, times, and kinds of beings webbed into fleshly presence”; or, more bluntly, “Critters are always entangled, rather than taxonomically neat.”6

Yet the model based on a gap rather than entanglement between humans and nonhumans has been most influential for literary animal studies. A particularly central scene appears in Derrida’s essay: the philosopher portrays an ordinary encounter with his cat in his bathroom. As the cat coolly observes his naked body, Derrida reacts with shame, yet he asks himself: “And why this shame that blushes for being ashamed? Especially, I should make clear, if the cat observes me frontally naked, face to face, and if I am naked faced with the cat’s eyes looking at me as it were from head to toe, just to see, not hesitating to concentrate its vision—in order to see, with a view to seeing—in the direction of my sex.” Here, he combats a long philosophical tradition of erasing animals’ autonomy by recognizing the cat’s gaze. And he insists that what he meets in the bathroom is a particular “little cat,” and not “the figure of a cat”—not a representative of “the felines that traverse our myths and religions.” This widely cited episode is fraught with shame, exposing masculinity, yearning for connection, and fearful of epistemological trespass against unknowable animality. Haraway observes critically that Derrida refuses to try an “alternative form of engagement” that could serve as a “possible introduction to other-worlding”—a point that has been underlined explicitly or implicitly by many feminist thinkers, such as Susan Fraiman, Josephine Donovan, and Anat Pit, among others.7 Still, Derrida’s encounter provokes many of the major questions that drive animal studies. Why does animal philosophy prompt a novelistic, first-person narrative? What is the danger of construing animals as tropes? How might an encounter with an animal in a nondomestic context affect the perception of difference? What about an encounter with multiple animals (a herd, a flock, a species)? Should we really treat an animal as “an existence that refuses to be conceptualized,” and thus indefinitely yet “absolute[ly] other?”8 Why does sex matter—and are there intersectional social pressures at issue? Finally, what does it mean that Derrida’s rather melancholy episode has attained an “originary” status for animal studies?9

The aporetic perspective sees animals’ embodied lives as dependent on the cultural and discursive management of difference; this management constitutes biopolitical power, which Michel Foucault defines as how “the set of mechanisms through which the basic biological features of the human species became the object of a political strategy”—in part through the discursive manipulation of species boundaries.10 Because terms like “aporia” and “biopower” demonstrate the effects of language and discourse in the constitution of the self and society, they are particularly relevant to the novel. Across generic modes and across geographically and culturally diverse forms of fiction, novelists face the challenge of construing animal difference as a “heterogeneous multiplicity of the living,” as Derrida puts it, without indulging in anthropocentrism.11 Critics often note that novels struggle to attend to animal lives without valorizing exclusionary concepts of rationality, imagination, consciousness, and dignity that belong to human privilege.12 Moreover, in the vast majority of cases, novelists focus on charismatic megafauna—animals that humans perceive as majestic or cute—rather than on less attractive but ecologically significant species (insects, chickens, viruses); this emphasis risks reinforcing aesthetically, politically, and ecologically anthropocentric priorities.13 Yet as Laura Brown points out, “Neither alterity nor anthropomorphism, in itself, can account for the versatility and complex nature of the imaginary animal.”14 This versatility is evident in novels’ form: texts that feature animals tend to highlight the porousness of traditional generic categories. Generic experimentation underlines that animals both trouble and invite categorical thinking. Using many generic modes, contemporary world novels particularly explore the power and limits of mapping histories of human belonging and domination onto animal figures.

Animals as Allegories

Variations on the animal allegory or fable constitute a robust, diverse, and often formally inventive trend in the contemporary novel. Indebted to politically oriented allegories from Aesop’s fables, medieval mystery plays and bestiaries, the 18th-century fables of Bernard Mandeville, and George Orwell’s Animal Farm, these narratives typically use animals as tropes for thinking through conflicts and complicities between self-interest and political enfranchisement. This link occurs because the same structural logic can be said to constitute racism and speciesism. As Cary Wolfe contends, when biopolitics marks out those who count as human, it “requires the sacrifice of the ‘animal’ and the animalistic, which in turn makes possible a symbolic economy in which we can engage in a ‘noncriminal putting to death.’”15 Yet Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin warn that “serious consideration of the status of the animal seems to be fundamentally compromised by humans’ deployment of animals and the animalistic to destroy or marginalize other human societies”—it can be difficult to see animals in their own right.16 Indeed, animal allegories explicitly and implicitly address the need for a more inclusive vision of human rights, using animals figuratively to evoke yearnings for freedom and autonomy that animals themselves are not considered to have.17

The allegory typically makes an animal or group of animals the representative of a moral or social position. Yet the form traditionally has the capacity to express unruly messages in a seemingly contained and overtly moral tale. Mel Y. Chen argues that “animals bear the burden of symbolic weight,” expressing projected anxieties, pleasures, and arguments, yet observes that “animality cannot but mediate and interrupt simplistic analogies, even those in which it is involved.”18 Thus, the ongoing vitality of the allegory would seem to continue to license the expression of transgressive energies that have been culturally excluded by being marked as “animal.” In this way, even the allegory’s covert logic resonates with how biopower manages the concept of the animal: according to Giorgio Agamben and Roberto Esposito, the differentiation between human beings and animals is a fundamental mechanism for conferring human distinction; the animal comes into being as a privative category to mark what the human is not.19

To dwell with animals outside this “anthropological machine,” as Agamben terms it, we must insist on the reality of the animals we encounter, and thus resist turning them into figures, abstractions, or concepts that deny the density and sensitivity of their living bodies. But how can we figure animals through tropes without ultimately confirming human privilege? Mario Ortiz-Robles argues that animals are inherently literary: “We have only had access to them through a screen of tropes”—rendering anthropocentrism utterly inescapable. Yet Heather Keenleyside, focusing on the 18th century, defends the trope, personification in particular, as means of granting animacy to what risk being perceived as mere things. Philip Armstrong, too, proposes that “in seeking to go beyond the uses of animals as mere mirrors for human meaning, our best hope is to locate the ‘tracks’ left by animals in texts, the ways cultural formations are affected by the materiality of animals.”20 Yet overall, fabulation constitutes a major challenge for the anti-anthropocentric agenda of animal studies, especially in the context of contemporary literature, because the animal trope often becomes a way of validating an exclusionary humanism. Derrida insists that “fabulation” “remains an anthropomorphic taming, a moralizing subjection, a domestication. Always a discourse of man on man, indeed on the animality of man, but for and as man.”21

Allegories of the State

The notion that fabulation presses animality into human service is clear in overtly political allegories that use the zoo or other mechanisms of captivity to signal “the rationalization of culture, [which] in opening its doors to nature, thereby, completely absorbs it,” in Theodor Adorno’s words.22 For many theorists of the zoo, the zoo is an exemplary technology of biopolitical power that works through the management of living and dying.23 Novels such as Peter Hoeg’s The Woman and the Ape (1996), Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi (2001), Helena Viramontes’s Their Dogs Came with Them (2007), Arvind Adiga’s The White Tiger (2008), Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People (2009), and Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City (2010) figure institutional capture of animals to indict the state’s management of bodily life. Such allegories tend to illustrate a key paradox of human rights discourse under biopolitical power: as Elizabeth Anker argues, “A person’s potential to authenticate the liberal dictates of freedom and autonomy is constitutively predetermined by the relative limitations of—as well as opportunities afforded by—that person’s embodiment.”24 Thus, while such novels critique biopolitical state institutions, the stories they tell defend the distinctive integrity of a transcendent and seemingly incorporeal human consciousness that only becomes more profound under conditions of political abjection.

The Life of Pi (2001), perhaps the most popular of these novels, has received primarily negative attention from critics.25 A young Indian man, Pi, tells the story of his survival on a life raft with a tiger, a former occupant of his family’s Pondicherry zoo. When the family attempts to relocate to North America in the lead-up to the 1975–1977 Emergency, their ocean liner shipwrecks: Martel suggests that animals are both passengers in humans’ very fragile vessels and victims of their very troubled state institutions. In depicting life on the raft, however, Martel stresses human responsibility toward animal captives: Pi’s survival depends on vigilant regulation that recognizes profound differences, as well as shared conditions, lessons in human supremacy Pi’s early life in the zoo has taught him well. His painstaking recognition of the tiger’s specific needs and capacities allows him to engineer a precarious intimacy. The novel’s conclusion, however, remakes this story into a fable of the human imagination, which dampens the prior emphasis on interspecies affection and caretaking. When Pi tells his story to insurance adjustors after he is rescued, they doubt his tale is true. Though Pi protests, “Tigers don’t contradict reality!,” his tale is nonetheless revealed as an allegory. Looking at animals, Pi admits, generates a “fiction that guarantees social well-being and staves off violent anarchy”—animals are figures for fiction itself.26 When he retells the story without animals, it turns out that the story of survival with a tiger may be his way of telling a story of surviving with a vicious man. Pi asks the insurance agents, “So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you, which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?” They reply, “The story with animals is the better story.” And though the details end up supporting the animal version, it is the storytelling that ultimately matters more: their preference for the animal story allows Pi to affirm, “so it is with God,” suggesting that the novel ultimately allegorizes human faith and invention.27

According to Philip Armstrong, this ultimate revision of the story “presents humans as innately different from and superior to animals because they possess a greater capacity for rational inventiveness, adaptability to new circumstances, and mobility,” and in so doing, it offers a “rhapsody to the power of the (touristic, all-consuming, privileged, globalized, Western) human spirit.”28 In other words, the novel confirms an early statement Pi makes: “We look at an animal and see a mirror” (31). He sounds here like John Berger, who argues that in industrial modernity humans cannot truly see or cohabitate with animals at all. Yet Pi does not share Berger’s critical attitude toward this limitation. A story about a tiger, the narrator insists, can be transformed into a profound tale of how humans create structures of value even under the harshest of conditions.

In other novels, animals are likewise used to consider the human subject’s resilience. In Eka Kurniawan’s Man Tiger (2015), a young man rebels against the constraints of his Indonesian village life, his abusive father, and his mother’s exploitative seducer by letting loose the female tiger contained within him. Kurniawan writes, “The tiger was there, a part of him, the two of them inseparable until death. . . . She wasn’t tame after all.”29 Resisting compulsory heteronormativity and humanity, the text presents Margio’s becoming-tiger literally, when he rips open his enemy’s throat. Yet Margio’s experience reflects shamanic cultural traditions: he inherits his inner tiger from his grandfather, reflecting early Indonesian were-tiger folktales.30 In Man Tiger’s mixing of social realism with tropes from oral tradition, it allegorizes not only individual but also cultural resistance to an impoverished vision of identity.

Adiga’s The White Tiger more explicitly investigates national identity under the pressures of globalization; although the characters do not embody animals, as in Man Tiger, they identify as animals in order to signal their position in a postglobal India still structured by caste. The crucial moment in the novel comes when the protagonist—the White Tiger—visits a real specimen in a zoo. The narrator recounts, “The tiger’s eyes met my eyes, like my master’s eyes have met mine so often in the mirror of the car.”31 Yet the masterful tiger emblematizes the protagonist’s own constrained strength, which he ultimately uses in the murder of his employer. In Animal’s People, the protagonist identifies as a creature who has lost his human status and now walks on all fours. His “animality” results from his disfigurement in the aftermath of an industrial accident, a fictionalized version of the 1984 Bhopal disaster, a gas leak at India’s Union Carbide plant that caused many immediate deaths and disabilities in the longer term. Condemning the slow violence inflicted upon a postindustrial, postglobal population, Sinha portrays Animal as refusing the “transfor[mation of] humanity into human capital,” opting out entirely by identifying as nonhuman.32 Although Sinha refuses to imagine the inner life of the individual subject as separate from the body’s conditions, the novel nonetheless uses the term “animal” to critique the human community.33

For Adiga and Sinha, to claim an animal affinity is to claim a self-sovereignty—and a masculinity—that has been barred for certain kinds of citizens; in Zoo City, animal affinities mark those who have been permanently excluded from citizenship, and whose efforts to reclaim power are tenuous, deeply dangerous, and likely to fail.34 Although its feel is very different, Beukes encodes a not-dissimilar political rage in her cyberpunk-noir twist on the allegory of the state. Zoo City portrays a dystopian Johannesburg experiencing a new version of apartheid: in the early 2000s, criminals and political refugees begin to be paired with animal familiars, granting the humans magical powers. The novel bleakly depicts the precarious lives of the “animalled,” who struggle to survive in a burgeoning slum where the too-visible presence of their familiars always risks deepening their disenfranchisement.

Allegories of the Subject

Another strain of allegory uses the notion of animal subjectivity to reflect on the political and philosophical conditions and limitations of human consciousness, often asking animal protagonists to “provide us with corrective reflections of ourselves.”35 This can be a highly anthropocentric enterprise, as in André Alexis’s Fifteen Dogs (2015), which is explicitly framed as a moral fable about the pressures of human self-awareness. Fifteen Dogs imagines the gods of Ancient Greece meddling with a group of dogs in present-day Toronto by granting them “human” intelligence. The novel dramatizes the miseries and pleasures of consciousness, but mostly the former as the dogs contend with their newfound insight. Though their leader declares, “We will have no masters,” most of the dogs long to be members of a companion species. Yet they end up as unhappy strays, vulnerable to human whim and pleasure: “This was humanity, this unpredictability, this cruel behavior and bullying.”36 By constantly turning the dogs out of doors, the novel refuses to “privatize the dog”—refuses to imagine a more inclusive human-based community even as it also resists imagining a truly cynocentric world.37 Thus, rather than blur species boundaries, the novel imagines being “adrift between species” as painful.38 With Derrida, then, we might observe that this tale registers, at most, “the animality of man,” while it establishes the dignity of dogs.39 Still, the novel grants particular power to the human literary imagination; the dogs who come closest to appreciating human language and canonical literature survive the longest, and Prince, who becomes a poet, is granted the “happiest” death and immortality. Thus, Fifteen Dogs serves primarily to think through the advantages and disadvantages of human self-awareness.

Yet other allegories of subjectivity, from Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty (1877) to Verlyn Klinkenborg’s Timothy: Notes of an Abject Reptile (2006), make strenuous efforts to think through nonhuman modes of being and doing. Cary Wolfe asks, “What can it mean to imagine a language we cannot understand, spoken by a being who cannot speak?”40 Kari Weil warns, “Such questions have deliberate echoes of the title of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s seminal essay in postcolonial theory, ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?,’ where . . . the critical establishment’s attempt to give voice to dispossessed peoples will only result in their speaking the language of Western intellectuals or being further dependent upon Western intellectuals to speak for them.” Thus, while the aporetic line of animal studies rejects a philosophical tradition that imagines animals as unable to respond to human address, it would also urge extreme caution in speaking as though from an animal’s perspective.41 Still, contemporary novelists often attempt to inhabit an animal’s sensorium—the milieu or environment created by a being’s cognitive architecture, which Jacob von Uexküll termed umwelt.42 Sometimes writers evoke an animal’s umwelt “naturally”—within the bounds of realism, with its emphasis on everyday life, individual consciousness, and the forging of cultural identity—and sometimes more fantastically.43

Alice Kuzniar complains that “the imaginative leap into the [animal’s] thoughts arises from the desire to supply what is missing; it is compensatory for both the animal’s silence and human incomprehension.” The effort, she argues, often “descends into banality and insipidness”—and yet, some texts manage “to think through the differences in all their alogical complexity.”44 Kuzniar cites Virginia Woolf’s novella Flush (1933) as a key effort. Although many animal-centered narratives use the first person, other recent efforts to depict animal consciousness follow Woolf by using free indirect discourse to depict a nonhuman sensorium; free indirect discourse blends subjective and objective perspectives as if to both depict and validate an animal’s worldview.

Such animal-centered narratives proceed through what narratologists identify as a “natural” mode of narration that stretches without really disordering traditional methods of representing human interiority and, as such, appear to work within a rights model that aims to broaden the definition of cognitive capacity enough to class nonhuman animals as subjects. Barbara Gowdy’s The White Bone (2000) naturalistically imagines the world of African elephants to pose an ecological and social critique of the treatment of wildlife. The novel is a kind of Bildungsroman: it depicts the development of a young female elephant as she experiences sexual maturity, inherits a role that is in the mystical traditions of her adopted tribe, and grapples with the endangerment posed by poachers—“hindleggers”—whose violence has completely reshaped animal habitats. Rather than hide its dependency on human language, the novel calls special attention to its own linguistic innovations when Mud must be renamed after her sexual experience according to gendered conventions against which she chafes. Huggan and Tiffin defend the novel’s efforts to prevent the elephants from becoming simplistically allegorical insofar as it uses a range of strategies, from scientifically informed studies of the species to personal observation to more imaginative inventions, to envision elephants as complexly both similar and different from humans.45

Cynomorphic narratives such as John Berger’s King: A Street Story (1999), Paul Auster’s Timbuktu (1999), Charles Siebert’s Angus (2000), and Garth Steiner’s The Art of Racing in the Rain (2008) offer a dog’s-eye perspective that is neither quite natural nor quite unnatural, though it is typically aligned with human masculinity. Both King and Timbuktu pair a dog narrator with homeless human protagonists, critiquing the violence of capitalism—their animal narrators are not just symbols of economic abjection but moral patients, expelled alongside their human keepers from the lit circle of social and political recognition. Affirming his critique of capitalism’s degradation of the human-animal bond in “Why Look at Animals?,” Berger’s novel proposes fragile alternative communities of mutual care. As a narrator, King calls attention to the fact that his identity is determined less by his species than by his relationships. Moreover, although the dog lacks the capacity to launch a systems-level critique, his highly self-conscious narrative is nonetheless fully able to convey a pointed critique of the abjection humans and animals share under capitalism: “I have a strange way of talking, for I’m not sure who I am,” says King. “Many things conspire to take a name away.”46 Patrice Nganang’s Dog Days: An Animal Chronicle (2001, trans. 2006) offers both an allegory of subjectivity—its Cameroonian dog narrator, Mboujak, struggles against his dependency as he observes working-class street life from his position of relative safety in his owner’s bar—and of citizenship under subjection. Mboujak opens his narrative by admitting, “I am a dog. Who else but me could admit it with such humility? Since I see no reproach in this confession, ‘dog’ becomes nothing more than a word, a noun: the noun men use to refer to me. But there you have it; in the end I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve assumed the destiny it places on my shoulders.”47 Moradewun Adenjunmobi argues that Dog Days is thus representative of a larger trend in contemporary African novels that explore “the conditions under which subordinated individuals and communities exhibit a clear-eyed understanding of the mechanics of subordination, but do not seek to undermine the power structures dictating their subordination.”48 Nganang’s canine narrator thus underscores a gap between imaginative and politically motivated responses to state-sponsored abjection.

Eva Hornung’s novel Dog Boy (2009) offers a twist on cynomorphic narratives. Using free indirect discourse, it tells the story of a young boy who joins a group of feral dogs who scavenge to survive life in the violent, heartless streets of post-Perestroika Moscow. Though little Romochka is not a dog, his experiences of the rhythms, rituals, and caring practices of the dog world offers a perspective that seems not quite human. The effect, as in Fifteen Dogs, is to dignify canine sociability at human expense. The final third of the novel shifts the focus to the fraught and often selfish calculations of the scientists who propose rehabilitating Romochka, capturing him and killing the dog mother and siblings who raised him, underlining a pervasive lack of care even in those who represent the social safety net.

Yoko Tawada’s Memoirs of a Polar Bear (2016) uses a more obviously unnatural narrative style, taking Franz Kafka’s fable of captivity, “A Report to the Academy” (1919), as a predecessor. In Kafka’s story, the ape Red Peter addresses an academic gathering on animal life; he has learned human language and, in doing so, lost access to the experience of animality that he now has the language to conceptualize. This influential story emphasizes the violence of humanity’s appropriations and manipulations of animals’ difference.49 In Tawada’s novel, three generations of literate polar bears, male and female, record their experiences performing in the circus, attending conferences, reading Kafka, writing bestsellers, sending email, and—in the case of the final bear, modeled on the Berlin Zoo’s controversial polar bear Knut (2007–2011), born in captivity—featuring as the poster child of global warming. Each bear’s narrative features humorous observations about human culture made possible by blurring human and animal predilections: for instance, attending a performance of an Anton Chekhov play, the ursine viewer comments, “The performance was delectable. The part I found the most appetizing was the dead seagull on the stage.” Constantly emphasizing the bears’ distinctive corporeal pleasures, the novel also stresses their dependency on the humans who put them to unnatural uses. Whereas some species “couldn’t care less whether or not human beings find them cute,” the polar bears’ status as charismatic megafauna inevitably means exploitation. Given the novel’s setting in East Germany in the last quarter of the 20th century, this particular form of exploitation seems accelerated under capitalism, even though animals appear to be granted much more respect after Communism. Still, though the bears are being exploited, the interspecies fascination is mutual, as when the bear Tosca performs an intimate circus act with her human trainer called “the Kiss.” Tosca concludes her narrative by evoking that intimacy: “I stand on two legs, my back slightly rounded, my shoulders relaxed. The tiny adorable human woman standing before me smells sweet as honey . . . . I see the sugar gleaming in the cave of her mouth. Its color reminds me of snow, and I am filled with longing for the far-off North Pole. Then I insert my tongue efficiently but cautiously between the blood-red human lips and extract the radiant lump of sugar.”50 The “radiant” love that emerges from these highly artificial conditions is as potent as it is distorting—a condition rendered more tragic in the novel’s conclusion with Knut’s untimely death after the human zookeepers he most loves leave him. When he perishes, he also yearns for a return to a wild North Pole he never knew.

Whether natural or unnatural in their narrative style, novels centering on animal subjectivity are necessarily anthropomorphic; but they also emphasize the capacity of individual animals for thought, emotion, and agency. At the same time, however, they stress the poignancy of social critique made through the eyes of creatures who, despite those capacities, can only be seen as victims.

Allegories of Entanglement

Other recent allegories imagine animals as at once real and mythic. Native American novels, which play powerfully with these categories as they reflect on inclusive cosmologies, tend not to be adequately integrated into scholarship framed as animal studies, as evidenced by a special issue of the journal Studies in American Indian Literatures, published in 2003, that argues for the need to bring the fields together. Contemporary Native American novels draw on indigenous epistemologies that express what Gregory Cajete terms “natural democracy” in which humans are related [to] and interdependent with plants, animals, stones, water, clouds, and everything else.” As Eric Cheyfitz notes, Cajete’s concept “suggests such a blurring, even erasure, of the boundaries between the literal and the figurative in its extension of kinship-based rights throughout the universe.”51 Brian K. Hudson calls animals “first beings,” and harmonizes indigenous epistemologies with Haraway’s work on companion species.52 Leslie Marmon Silko’s well-known novel Ceremony (1977), which integrates dream-visions featuring animals in a depiction of a spiritual journey in a post-tribal world, uses both literal and figurative representations of animals. For instance, the novel juxtaposes traditional Laguna approaches to deer hunting with less respectful practices adopted from white settlers. Linda Hogan’s People of the Whale (2008) similarly links European-style hunting methods to cultural and personal trauma. Louise Erdrich’s novels, particularly Tracks (1988), invoke but recast traditional understandings of animals, often in an atmosphere that borders on magic but is never quite magical. The misunderstood but powerful Fleur Pillager is perceived by her community as having shamanic powers associated with the Bear in Chippewa culture, and her story is narrated in part by a woman who converts to Catholicism and seeks to renounce her complex cultural inheritance. Erdrich’s more recent A Plague of Doves (2008) likewise stages a confrontation between Ojibwe and Catholic interpretations of natural events as a community struggles to cope with the aftermath of a near-apocalyptic influx of birds. Frances Washburn’s The Sacred White Turkey (2010), too, juxtaposes Catholic faith with Native tradition when a Lakota community grapples with the unexplained appearance of a mysterious bird.53

Novels from other cultural traditions make recourse to the fabulous to stress the “experience of dwelling with other bodies.”54 Indebted to Marion Engel’s path-breaking novel Bear (1976), which depicts a woman’s love-affair with an ursine, such novels envision surreal entanglements. In the novels of Haruki Murakami, such as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (trans. 1997) and 1Q84 (trans. 2011), a cat’s disappearance can provoke unworldly investigations of the conditions of existence that never reaffirm the real. In 1Q84, Murakami explicitly builds on but distorts the fable form. He writes that for his protagonist Tengo, reading a novel means plunging into “a deep, magical forest”; we see Tengo reading a German fable called “The Town of Cats.” The story depicts a man stranded in a town inhabited only by larger-than-life cats: Tengo understands from the story that “the young man knows that he is irretrievably lost. This is no town of cats, he finally realizes. It is the place where he is meant to be lost. It is another world, which has been prepared especially for him.”55 Ortiz-Robles writes that for Murakami, “the cat story seems to operate as something of an allegory or parable in the context of the novel as a whole, offering a way to understand the condition of being ‘lost,’ a state of being shared by several of the novel’s characters.” The cat appears to figure a hermeneutic orientation itself, yet for a character to attend to a cat’s presence or absence is also to attend to his own embodiment in richer ways than are usually permitted. Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife depicts a tiger’s escape from the zoo in an Eastern European country torn by civil war; it is both the story of a contemporary young woman, Natalia, and her fascination with the tiger as a lens for understanding the shattering of her culture and her family, and a myth of another young woman during World War II—the eponymous tiger’s wife, a battered woman who shares an unexplained bond with the escaped zoo animal. “Maybe it’s enough,” Natalia ponders, “to say he enjoyed the sensation of her hand between his eyes. She liked the way his flank smelled when she curled up against it to sleep.”56 There is no definite allegorical significance to the bond between the two, which allows the narrative to resist excessively valorizing the human imagination. Novels like these display what Susan McHugh calls intercorporeality, or what Colleen Boggs terms “critical anthropomorphism”: they suggest that “we open ourselves to touch and be touched by others as fellow objects and may imagine their pain, pleasure, and need in anthropomorphic terms but must stop short of believing that we can know their experience.”57

Animals as Other

Novels that depict encountering animals’ otherness often appear, at least on the surface, the most traditional insofar as they typically invoke the conventions of realism and center around human protagonists. Such novels, with their ethical emphasis, particularly reward reading in the context of the aporetic line of thought within animal studies; they tend to be melancholic, juxtaposing the hope of achieving a responsible connection against events or institutional structures that thwart burgeoning attachments. They depict relations of care between humans and vulnerable or dependent animals that prompt reflection on the meaning of ethical action and the vulnerabilities of embodiment that all animals share, even as they present animality itself as unknowable. Lydia Millet’s How the Dead Dream (2008) is a particularly clear example, depicting a financially successful but dissociated young real estate developer’s personal transformation after he hits a coyote with his car. He begins breaking into zoos, gradually realizing a profound sense of responsibility for other species. Face to face with a wolf, for instance, the protagonist experiences a realization much like Derrida’s: although he registers its being as “self-contained,” he finds “a fleeting awareness that in the wolf’s gaze there was a directness unlike the directness of men.”58 Yet this recognition takes place within the walls of the zoo—an institutional, built space that makes animals the fully administrated creatures of the human imagination. Takahashi Hiraide’s The Guest Cat (trans. 2014) likewise positions animal affinities against industrial development and urbanization; it depicts a young couple’s cautious yet joyful intimacy with a neighborhood cat. Imagining the cat as a “guest” underlines the way in which the novel presents the cat as an enigmatic yet respectable stranger. The larger significance of the relationship emerges when the cat’s death is framed in relation to a real estate boom in 1980s Toyko, which reshapes and anonymizes communities. Ultimately, however, the novel does not amount to a fable about uncertainty, as in Murakami, but probes the value of lucidly encountering a particular feline life. Such melancholy fictions, whether about species or individual animals, “index histories of modernization and colonization and . . . articulate skepticism regarding their consequences,” as Ursula Heise points out, noting also that such novels tend to depict characters who are drawn into contemplating animal experience “quite against their own intentions” and without any form of scientific or philosophical expertise.59

Dog Encounters

Dogs have a special status in novels that imagine the animal as other. Realist novels that center on domesticated dogs most strongly emphasize human-animal bonds formed in linked experiences of abjection. Kuzniar notes that representations of this companion species are typically melancholic: they recognize that “however close we are to the canine pet, that closeness can never be enough and we are always conscious of the obliqueness and imperfection that govern our communion with it and, hence, of a fundamental muteness. But the ideal of crossing that barrier motivates . . . writers . . . they attempt to come closer to the animal, all while melancholically despairing at not being able to do so.” Thus, they register concern about abandonment and suffering that can also include the human protagonists. For Kuzniar, although “degradation can often be projected onto the dog so as to disavow it in oneself,” novels often portray human protagonists grappling with corporeal conditions that compromise the dignity usually reserved for human subjectivity; thus, the encounter with dogs works to reframe exclusionary concepts of the human.60

Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones (2012), for instance, is narrated by a pregnant fifteen-year-old African American girl, Esch, who awaits the arrival of Hurricane Katrina with her multispecies family. In the novel’s opening, Esch watches her brother Skeetah’s pit bull give birth to a litter of puppies and, in her identification with the fighting dog’s new maternity, begins to grasp a violent yet loving vision of corporeality that makes no species distinctions. As she begins to see herself enmeshed in a process that is at once biologically rooted and culturally complex, Esch often proposes animal analogies or metaphors in her observations of the fragile world around her. But the novel’s overall treatment of animality is not so anthropocentric as this figurative impulse would imply—not least because it is so pervasive that Esch’s consciousness seems fundamentally zoopoetic. Skeetah’s deep intimacy with his pit bull—which complicates cultural discourses connecting the breed with black masculinity—is just the most profound example of the many interconnections between humans and animals throughout the novel. The affiliation Ward creates between dogs and the cultural and geographic experience of blackness builds on Toni Morrison’s meditations on racist associations between African Americans and animals, cemented by 19th-century racial pseudoscience (such as Josiah Nott and George Gliddon’s 1854 Types of Mankind). Morrison’s novels, particularly Beloved (1987), explore a fraught relationship with animal life; Sethe kills her baby to prevent her from being classified as an animal, yet the narrative dwells on a fascinated, respectful, and powerful visionary attitude toward the natural world in a figure like Baby Suggs. As Vera Norwood points out, “Morrison is not suggesting that humans are separate from animals and that the whites’ only error is in conjoining blacks to a ‘lower’ species. Rather, she critiques whites’ dealings with all other life forms as though they were only meat for the table, [or] beasts of burden.”61 Still, in Ward’s novel, devotion to animals seems melancholic in Kuzniar’s sense, given the children’s loss of their mother in childbirth and their father to alcoholism. “To own a pet,” Kuzniar writes, “means refusing to give up the lost object. It is a shield against recognition of forsakenness.”62 In this sense, dog love offers a reparative but ultimately futureless queer intimacy. However, Christopher Lloyd observes a more politically pointed dimension of the novel: both Esch and Skeetah advocate an “ethic of survival, home, and family across species lines, emphasizing the ways in which precariousness and creatureliness—exposure to biopolitical forces, such as those engendered by Katrina’s effects on the Gulf region—is not confined to human life.”63

An emphasis on abjection is also central to J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace (1999), perhaps the most commented-on contemporary novel in literary animal studies. Fleeing from his work as a literature professor after he has been investigated for sexual misconduct, the self-involved David Lurie makes a new life at his daughter’s small farm. In the wake of a violent attack on the farm, which resonates with the political divisions of postapartheid South Africa and culminates in his daughter’s rape, Lurie—himself a former perpetrator of sexual violence—begins to shed his sense of privilege and, at the same time, develops a new affinity for animals he does not fully understand. Working at the local animal shelter, he participates in the euthanasia of homeless dogs and disposal of their bodies. Much of the critical dialogue about the novel centers on a scene toward the end in which Lurie decides to “sacrifice”—euthanize—a dog with whom he has formed a bond. He will do “little enough, less than little: nothing” for the dog as he tends to the disposal of its corpse. Derrick Attridge, Kuzniar, Armstrong, and others point out that the menial tasks Lurie takes on at the dog shelter constitute his efforts to share in the dogs’ own abjection; his sacrifice is ultimately purposeless and perhaps even unwarranted, but these critics find value in Lurie’s acceptance of purposelessness as an ethical impulse toward an “other” who is not usually deemed to be of value. Crucially, David’s choice lacks the reasoned basis we might normally expect of an ethical principle: in this sense, the novel expresses “doubts about the claims of instrumental reason.” Anker comments further that by “submit[ting] himself to other lives” and “divesting himself of the instruments of domination,” Lurie discovers the plight of common embodiment.64 Yet it is difficult to assess the degree to which the novel actually valorizes his actions, given that Coetzee’s use of free indirect discourse invites suspicion of Lurie’s self-perception throughout, perhaps especially in the novel’s final, Christ-like image of Lurie bearing the dog in his arms “like a lamb.”65 Josephine Donovan and Marianne DeKoven are critical of Lurie’s commitment to a fruitless sacrifice rather than enactment of a more positive commitment of care. As Donovan acknowledges, “few . . . human characters exhibit the intense empathetic identification with animal suffering and loss of dignity as do Coetzee’s”; yet in his “inability to move beyond absurd, ineffectual gestures,” Lurie remains caught in a dominating “male narcissism despite [his] awakened ethical awareness.” Certainly, Coetzee seems cautious about the prospect of turning the novel into a fable by too clearly adumbrating a principle that could provide a moral or political roadmap for the people of South Africa.66 As Anat Pick argues, “championing ulterior subjectivities does not in itself generate a new ethics if the question of power is left unaddressed.”67

Animals as Ethical Patients

Many contemporary novels explicitly consider the ethics of euthanasia, meat eating, animal experimentation, and anthropogenic climate change—practices that construe animals as ethical patients deserving of appropriate treatment by human agents. At the same time, these texts wrangle with the thorny problem of what it means for a novel to advocate an ethical position. What is the place of ethical argument in a novel?

Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello (2003), like Disgrace, makes it difficult to assess the novel’s own stance toward the ethical stances it depicts, though the taking of explicit, reasoned positions within the fictional form of the novel is more central. Elizabeth Costello builds on Coetzee’s Tanner Lectures, given at Princeton University in 1997 and subsequently issued as “The Lives of Animals” (1999). Coetzee uses a fictional novelist, Elizabeth, to articulate an intense passion for the problem of animal suffering that cannot quite be explained in rational terms. Pitting Elizabeth against philosophers, scientists, and skeptics, Coetzee allows Elizabeth to make a case for a specifically literary mode of attending to animals: she insists, “If I do not convince you [that animal suffering matters], that is because my words, here, lack the power to bring home to you the wholeness, the unabstracted, unintellectual nature, of that animal being. That is why I urge you to read the poets who return the living, electric being to language, and if the poets do not move you, I urge you to walk, flank to flank, beside the beast that is prodded down the chute to his executioner.”68 Cora Diamond pinpoints a key difficulty of this text:

The awareness we each have of being a living body, being “alive to the world,” carries with it exposure to the bodily sense of vulnerability to death, sheer animal vulnerability, the vulnerability we share with them. . . . To be able to acknowledge it at all . . . is wounding; but acknowledging it as shared with other animals, in the presence of that we do to them, is capable not only of panicking one but also of isolating one, as Elizabeth Costello is isolated. Is there any difficulty in seeing why we should not prefer to return to moral debate, in which the livingness and death of animals enter as facts . . ., not as presences that may unseat our reason?69

In its advocacy of feeling, impulse, and a phenomenological sense of being as allied with literature, Elizabeth Costello resonates with many other novels that consider—and even explicitly advocate—ethical positions on particularly contentious topics related to the treatment of animals.

Eating Meat

For Elizabeth Costello, the ethics of eating is the central problem of human-animal relations and could—contentiously—be linked to the Holocaust, as in historian Charles Patterson’s Eternal Treblinka (2002). But for recent novelists the consumption of meat is presented as a crisis of industrialization and sexual identity, as well as a matter of the treatment of animals. Both Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats (1998), set in the United States and Japan, and Han Kang’s The Vegetarian (2007; trans. 2016), set in South Korea, respond to cultures of meat eating in East Asia, as well as in the West, and use the eating and refusal of meat to condemn what Carol Adams has termed the “sexual politics of meat”—a link between the exploitation of animals and the exploitation of women and a resistance to patriarchy routed through vegetarianism.70 In The Vegetarian, a housewife named Yeong-hye abruptly refuses to eat meat and begins to fantasize about rejecting all forms of domination until she enters a suicidal state of becoming-plant. Though linked to a traumatic childhood dog bite and the punitive violence her father inflicted against the dog, her vegetarianism constitutes an impersonal, antihuman intervention into a culture that refuses to acknowledge the deathliness of living. Yeong-hye’s commitment provokes a cascade of physically, sexually, and medically violent responses in her social-climbing husband, her father, her brother-in-law (an artist, outside the capitalist framework, who initially seems to have the best chance of appreciating her choice but ultimately cannot help but egoistically appropriate her body), and her doctors (who persevere in trying to normalize her life against her wishes through increasingly extreme interventions). In contrast, witnessing Yeong-hye’s gradual dissociation from sentience induces a parallel desire for deathly transformation in her all-too-normal sister; the novel concludes with her sister’s flagging attempt to “protest” a darkly luminescent vision of destruction: “green fire undulating like the rippling flanks of an animal.”71 Whereas Kang envisions an absolute abjection as the only possible response to the pervasive violence of carnivory, and thus eschews what we might be satisfied to call a viable project for animal eating, Ozeki’s novel depicts a politically activist response to the meat industry. It depicts a Japanese-American woman employed by a US beef lobby to produce a glossy television show promoting American meats—and family values—to a Japanese audience. Eventually, however, she rescues the oppressed wife of one of the Japanese beef officials, and (in the tradition of Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel-exposé The Jungle) produces a documentary revealing the meat industry’s toxic reliance on antibiotics. Attacking the export of damaging American norms, the novel concludes by depicting an optimistic alliance between women that rewards social reform, which it locates in a cautiously reaffirmed, emphatically multicultural America. Such novels condemn institutionalized meat production and normalized consumption as an index of the normalization of violence under male-dominated capitalism.


Animal experimentation—like the ethics of eating, a topic of substantial interest in discourses on animal rights—has also been treated in novel form. This topic elicits a range of narrative strategies. Novels such as Bernard Malamud’s God’s Grace (1982), Peter Goldsworthy’s Wish (1995), and Will Self’s Great Apes (1997) offer parables that satirize linguistic experiments with great apes that took place in the mid-20th century; these parables, which Philip Armstrong claims are modeled on Jonathan Swift’s 18th-century satires, grapple with primatology’s alliance with “extractive colonialism” and its efforts to coerce apes into conforming to human cognitive norms.72 Colin McAdam’s A Beautiful Truth (2014) and Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (2013) offer more realist perspectives. While McAdam narrates from both human and chimpanzee perspectives, Fowler’s more traditional narrative tells the story of Rosemary and her missing twin sister, Fern, eventually revealed to be a chimpanzee cross-fostered by their human family. The experiments on which the novels are modeled were sometimes deemed failures: although cross-fostered chimpanzees often were able to use human language effectively, they could become aggressive once they reached puberty. Vicky Hearne comments that this combination led scientists in cross-fostering experiments to “want to deny [the chimpanzee’s] personhood and her language rather than acknowledge the limits of language.”73 Rosemary’s linguistically playful narrative would seem to fully endorse this notion, both invoking the pleasures of human language and insisting upon the personhood of sibling-chimpanzee. This individual form of ethical recognition seems crucial to the novel, where it is contrasted with the animal liberation activism of Rosemary’s older brother, perennially on the run from the FBI and living what he feels is a ruined and ineffective life.

Genetic experimentation also prompts fictional experimentation—again, typically comic or satirical. Among the critics who advocate posthumanism, Donna Haraway offers one of the most promising accounts of the imaginative possibilities when technology allows life forms to be “promiscuously fused”: against the anthropocentric myth of a fundamental divide between human and nature, in the future “miscegenation between and among humans and nonhumans [will be] the norm.” As her sexually and racially charged words like “promiscuous” and “miscegenation” imply, Haraway indicts excessive anxiety about mingling by linking them to the racist and sexist policing of boundaries. Certainly, she worries that bioengineering may serve corporate economic power, as in the development of transgenic properties like OncoMouse, the first patented animal. Still, she proposes as radical the notion that we are already transgenic.74 Zadie Smith seems to satirize these notions in White Teeth (2001), which features genetic animal experimentation in its exploration of how characters from a range of ethnic backgrounds struggle to identify with Englishness. One of the novel’s subplots depicts an Anglo-Jewish scientist’s development of a transgenic Futuremouse, symbolizing a new direction for a rootless, raceless, recombinatory England. But the scientist’s son, along with a biracial friend, liberate the mouse, signaling the novel’s rejection of engineering a future artificially purified of its complex, subjective links to the personal and cultural past, and satirizing Haraway’s optimism.75

In the more techno-skeptical tradition of anti-vivisection fiction of the 19th century like H. G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), Margaret Atwood brings together the two key concerns about the ethical treatment of animals—consumption and experimentation—in her MaddAddam trilogy, a work of speculative fiction. Atwood depicts a pervasively capitalized world where genetic engineering has crafted transgenic creatures, such as pigoons (pigs with human genes for organ transplants) and ChickieNobs (headless lab-grown poultry), while environmental degradation renders the human population ever more precarious, and entertainment technology distracts from an increasingly fascist political regime. The young genius inventor Crake—who takes his name from an extinct species—releases a virus that depopulates the planet and plans to replace humans with a new humanoid species of his own eugenic design. The reproductive habits of these new people free them from sexual violence, while their nutritional needs free them from violence against other species, and their communalism frees them from political domination. Yet Atwood depicts this population as stultified and Crake’s biological mastery, which he paradoxically asserts in decimating humankind, as a profoundly misguided investment in the very biotechnology that has already betrayed us. She juxtaposes newly engineered “Crakers” to the flawed but nuanced humans who have survived the virus as they struggle to form a postapocalyptic community: Crake’s complicit friend Jimmy, a band of eco-fundamentalists who practice extreme forms of respect for other species, and the pigoons, with their human DNA.76 The novel concludes with reproductive boundary crossing between the humans and the transgenic Crakers, but its commitments are fundamentally humanist rather than posthumanist: Atwood affirms a genetically promiscuous future only insofar as it continues through traditional means of reproduction—sexual rather than technological—not the technological as sexual. The trilogy’s response to genetic engineering mirrors a shift toward more localized interspecies relationships in Haraway’s own work in the 2000s. In When Species Meet, for instance, Haraway suggests that the goal is “‘to consort, to keep company,’ with sexual and generative connotations always ready to erupt.”77

Climate Change

Human-animal relations also appear in climate change fiction, a subgenre newly recognized by ecocriticism. “Cli-fi” often emphasizes the clashes and convergences of the interests of species rather than one-on-one encounters, where consorting and companionship are possible. Urusla Heise argues that fiction about the Anthropocene “explor[es] the shifting meanings and functions of endangered species in contexts of multicultural encounter, multispecies encounter, violence and power struggles, and attempts to create just societies—for humans and nonhumans.” She observes that science fiction is a particularly promising genre that “rethinks and relativizes human exceptionality through the confrontation with aliens, species with whom we have not coevolved.”78 In its confrontation with species with different modes of cognition, science fiction resonates with the epistemological challenges of writing about animals.

However, the earthbound novels that concern the fates of known species endangered by anthropogenic habitat changes more strongly emphasize the profoundly entangled interests of different species than the problems of alterity as such. Thus, they often feature scientific efforts of observation and conservation. Cli-fi, Heise argues, “imagine[s] a world in which the scientific tasks of identifying organisms, counting species, and classifying them according to their risk status become part of the larger cultural enterprise of defining and enacting multispecies justice.” Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain (2004), T. C. Boyle’s When the Killing’s Done (2011), and Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior (2012) all feature the sometimes futile efforts of scientists to manage animal populations in the context of environmental pressures. Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide (2004), which has attracted considerable attention from both ecocriticism and animal studies, offers perhaps the most ambivalent portrayal of conservationism in its alliance with institutionalized science. The novel depicts the work of a US-born Indian scientist, Piya, who comes to study the Gangetic dolphin in the Sundarbans, a region of India still feeling the effects of the 1979 expulsion of refugees from Marichjhanpi in the name of tiger conservation. Demonstrating how Piya’s attitudes diverge from those of people more rooted in the area—an upper-caste man visiting the area, a local fisherman, and a local woman striving for a better education—the novel refuses to advocate any one position. While tracking dolphins leads to collaboration among characters who contribute either technical or local knowledge, they remain in disagreement about the treatment of tigers, emphasizing that species are in competition for ever more limited resources. In a final scene, when human and animal characters all struggle to survive a hurricane exacerbated by climate change, it becomes clear that the anthropogenic restructuring of the jungle has complex effects on emotional lives, as well as the fates of species. Tigers, whose highly conflictual relationship with humans remains intense, fit uncomfortably into the novel’s efforts to valorize attentiveness to the natural, and to animals, in any form.79 Still, as Heise contends, it endorses the process of recognizing a shared milieu, rather than any one solution for the problem of how to share it.

Entangled Bodies in a Global World

Ranging from melancholic to comic, contemporary novels find answers to “the animal question” in multiple moods, depending on their political outlook. Not every novel or generic mode is equally invested in or capable of developing readers’ affective investments in animals, or in materially impacting animals’ lives in an era of diminishing biodiversity. However, uniting this varied and ever-growing array of novels is a renewed commitment to the question of how literature can represent the lives of intimately entangled bodies in a globalizing world.

Discussion of the Literature

Animal studies emerged as an interdisciplinary field in the 1970s and 1980s, when historians and philosophers began to attend to the significant cultural role of animals. Mary Midgley’s Animals and Why They Matter (1983) asks whether animals are entitled to moral consideration and examines philosophical traditions that link questions of animal rights to racism and sexism. Keith Thomas’s Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England, 1500–1800 (1983) examines shifting attitudes toward nature during the early period of England’s industrialization, including the changing status of animals from creatures made for human pleasure to pets and scientific specimens. Harriet Ritvo’s The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in Victorian Britain (1989) tracks the consequences of imperial game hunting, dog breeding, evolutionary thinking, and the birth of the animal rights movement to argue that animals often functioned as metaphors for human social thinking. Primatology, which had gained an especially high profile with the publication of Jane Goodall’s first work in 1967, prompted further thought with Donna Haraway’s Primate Visions: Gender, Race and Nature in the World of Science (1989), which argues for a bias toward theories that validate male dominance in primatology. Carol J. Adams’s The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory (1990) documented western culture’s connection between patriarchal masculinity and the consumption of meat, as well as the historical and literary links between feminism and vegetarianism.80

The 1970s and 1980s also saw substantial growth in the animal rights movement, indebted to the work of Jeremy Bentham in the 19th century, with Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals (1975) and Tom Regan’s The Case for Animal Rights (1983), both of which argue that animals have capacities that justify granting them legal rights and protection from cruel treatment. Singer, with Paola Cavalieri, went on to edit The Great Ape Project: Equality beyond Humanity (1993), an anthology advocating legal rights for apes. See also Cass R. Sunstein and Martha C. Nussbaum’s Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions (2004) for rights perspectives in a wide range of traditions, from Aristotelian philosophy to law. Cora Diamond’s essay “Eating Meat and Eating People” (1976) criticizes the animal rights paradigm for its hyperrational disavowal of feeling for animals as a possible basis for their legal recognition, as does Josephine Donovan’s “Animal Rights and Feminist Theory” (1990). With Adams, Donovan went on to edit Beyond Animal Rights: A Feminist Caring Ethic for the Treatment of Animals (1996),81 a collection that criticizes the animal rights framework for its reliance on instrumental reason and recuperates an attitude of nurturing care toward animals.82

The “training” perspective in animal studies, which began in the 1980s as well, offers an alternative viewpoint by framing animals as agents. Vicki Hearne’s Adam’s Task: Calling Animals by Name (1986), argues that animal training depends on moral collaboration between humans and animals. Haraway continues this line of thought in The Companion Species Manifesto (2003) and When Species Meet (2007), where she builds on previous arguments that not only are there no biological grounds for a strong account of difference between humans and other animals, but that our biological entanglement constitutes the grounds for an ethics of companionship.83

The aporetic philosophical tradition takes its impetus from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s claim that “if a lion could talk, we could not understand him” and Martin Heidegger’s claim that “the animal is poor in world”—notions Hearne and the other trainers would reject. Thomas Nagel, a philosopher of mind, argues in his widely cited “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” (1974) that it is impossible to think one’s way into the sensorium of another species. Nagel’s account is the rare entry from analytic philosophy commonly included in literary analysis. Further work in comparative cognition is rarely cited in literary studies.84 Also worth noting is that Nagel’s account does not substantially consider ethical results, whereas other influential accounts of an epistemological gap are more concerned with the problem of animal suffering, as well as the cultural construction of the gap. Marxist writer John Berger, like Nagel, cautions against appropriating animal experience in “Why Look at Animals?” (1974), but argues that industrial modernity has introduced a rupture between humans and other animals that renders animals mirrors for human values rather than autonomous beings. Jacques Derrida in “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)” (trans. 2002) tracks the “multiple” “heterogeneous” borders that structure the “abyssal rupture[s]” between humans and animals.85 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus (trans. 1987) preempt such abyssal logic and reject “individuated animals” like pets as figures of narcissistic, Oedipal attachment—as such they are not directly concerned with problems of suffering. They re-envision identity as an always-unstable process—termed “becoming-animal”—rather than the static mode of being associated with individual self-sovereignty. Though fundamentally divergent, both attitudes toward difference also figure in biopolitical theory, which tracks, as Nicole Shukin writes, the “production of species difference as a strategically ambivalent rather than absolute line, allowing for the contradictory power to both dissolve and reinscribe borders between humans and animals.”86 The management of difference is theorized by Giorgio Agamben in The Open (trans. 2003), Cary Wolfe in Animal Rites (2003), Derrida in lectures collected under the title The Beast and the Sovereign (trans. 2011), and Shukin, Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times (2009). Agamben, influentially, links the exercise of state sovereignty to death; Roberto Esposito, in contrast, argues for a more affirmative dimension of biopower’s ambiguities in The Third Person (2012) by drawing on Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of becoming-animal.87 Haraway in When Species Meet and Susan Fraiman in her essay “Pussy Panic versus Liking Animals: Tracking Gender in Animal Studies” (2012) criticize some of these lines of thought as excessively conceptual, affirming instead animals’ and humans’ common embodiment, and envisioning a symbiotic multispecies community, messages they find in feminist theory that predates what are usually cited as key poststructuralist worlds of animal studies.88

Analysis of animals in contemporary literature and culture typically considers multiple genres and art forms. Nigel Rothfels’s essay collection, Representing Animals (2002) and Erica Fudge’s Animal (2002) constitute two relatively early efforts to speak to the pervasive use of animal imagery in contemporary culture. Historicist literary criticism includes Marion Scholtmeijer’s Animal Victims in Modern Fiction: From Sanctity to Sacrifice (1992) and Randy Malamud’s Reading Zoos: Representations of Animals and Captivity (1998), which argues that zoos encourage an anthropocentric, imperial mindset. Malamud is also the author of Poetic Animals and Animal Souls (2003), which presents poetry as a means of achieving a more ethical relationship with animals and turns to indigenous philosophy, specifically Meso-American totemism, to generate a critical theory that supports his defense of poetry.

Typically, critics offer more Eurocentric theoretical engagements. Steve Baker’s The Postmodern Animal (2002) draws on Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of becoming-animal in his analysis of contemporary art and literature, as does Jussi Parrika’s Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology (2010). Mel Y. Chen’s Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (2012), and Colleen Glenney Boggs’s Animalia Americana: Animal Representations and Biopolitical Subjectivity (2013) understand animals as crucial to the way humans regulate belonging in the biopolitical state, and also defend texts that champion indeterminacy as generative sites of resistance to state power. Susan McHugh’s Animal Stories: Narrating across Species Lines (2011) argues, conversely, that humans depend on and respond to animals in ways that open us to alternative ways of knowing that are excluded from Western, liberal models of subjectivity. Not dissimilarly, Anat Pick’s Creaturely Poetics: Animality and Vulnerability in Literature and Film (2011) and Josephine Donovan’s The Aesthetics of Care: On the Literary Treatment of Animals (2016) emphasize the human capacity to become open to animals.89

The perspective of animal studies has also been valuable to postcolonial criticism and to ecocriticism, which converge in their concern with environmental justice. Philip Armstrong, in What Animals Mean in the Fiction of Modernity (2008), argues for the importance of attending to literary animals in coming to terms with “the ruins of modernity.” Wolfe’s Animal Rites connects racism with speciesism, as do Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin’s Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment (2010) and Christopher Peterson’s Bestial Traces: Race, Sexuality, and Animality (2013). However, Neel Ahuja, in his essay “Postcolonial Critique in a Multispecies World,” and Ursula Heise, in Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species (2016), are critical of the flattening of historical context that this linkage can create. Along with a large number of the pieces mentioned in this section, many more articles and book chapters specifically address the work of J. M. Coetzee.90

Finally, numerous overviews of the field have been published in the past decade, including Marianne DeKoven’s “Why Animals Now?” (2009); Wolfe’s “Human, All Too Human: ‘Animal Studies’ and the Humanities” (2009); Jennifer Howard’s “Creature Consciousness: Animal Studies Tests the Boundaries between Human and Animal—and between Academic and Advocate” (2009); Kari Weil’s “A Report on the Animal Turn,” (2010); Marion W. Copeland’s “Literary Animal Studies in 2012: Where We Are, Where We Are Going” (2012); and Mario Ortiz-Robles’s Literature and Animal Studies (2016).91

Further Reading

Agamben, Giorgio. The Open. Translated by Kevin Attell. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Armstrong, Philip. What Animals Mean in the Fiction of Modernity. London: Routledge, 2008.Find this resource:

Berger, John. “Why Look at Animals?” In About Looking, by John Berger, 3–28. New York: Vintage, 1992.Find this resource:

Coetzee, J. M. Elizabeth Costello. London: Penguin, 2003.Find this resource:

Derrida, Jacques. “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow).” Translated by David Wills. Critical Inquiry 28.2 (2002): 369–418.Find this resource:

Haraway, Donna. When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Heise, Ursula K. Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Fraiman, Susan. “Pussy Panic versus Liking Animals: Tracking Gender in Animal Studies.” Critical Inquiry 39.1 (2012): 89–115.Find this resource:

Huggan, Graham, and Helen Tiffin. Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment. London: Routledge, 2010.Find this resource:

McHugh, Susan. Animal Stories: Narrating across Species Lines. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Nagel, Thomas. “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” Philosophical Review 83.4 (1974): 435–450.Find this resource:

Pick, Anat. Creaturely Poetics: Animality and Vulnerability in Literature and Film. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Ritvo, Harriet. The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987.Find this resource:

Rothfels, Nigel. “Immersed with Animals.” In Representing Animals, edited by Nigel Rothfels, 199–224. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Weil, Kari. “A Report on the Animal Turn.” differences 21.1 (2010): 1–23.Find this resource:

Wolfe, Cary, ed. Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.Find this resource:


(1.) See Susan McHugh’s version of this question in Susan McHugh, Animal Stories: Narrating across Species Lines (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 2.

(2.) On biocentricity in modernism, see Margot Norris, Beasts of the Modern Imagination: Darwin, Nietzsche, Kafka, Ernst, and Lawrence (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985).

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature, trans. Dana Polan (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996),Ivan Kreilkamp, “Dying like a Dog in Great Expectations,” Victorian Animal Dreams: Representation of Animals in Victorian Literature and Culture, ed. Deborah Morse and Martin Danahay (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007), 84.

On minorness, see which uses Kafka’s animal-centered fictions to theorize the minor: “It is literature that produces an active solidarity in spite of skepticism . . . express[ing] another possible community and [forging] the means for another consciousness and another sensibility” (17). On the minorness of many animals in fiction, see

(3.) James English describes the Booker Prize as “the most successful of all the hundreds of literary prizes” that not only circulate but create a highbrow world literature (197).

(4.) Cary Wolfe, “In the Shadow of Wittgenstein’s Lion,” in Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal, ed. Cary Wolfe (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 10.

(5.) Roberto Esposito, Third Person: Politics of Life and Philosophy of the Impersonal, trans. Zakiya Hanafi (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2012), 149.

(6.) Donna Haraway, When Species Meet (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 139, 330.

(7.) Haraway, 20. Haraway is likewise critical of the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, which she argues is dismissive of actual practices of living with animals and has an implicitly sexist bias against alliances between women and animals. See, as a recent example of the impact of Derrida versus Haraway, Catherine Parry, Other Animals in Twenty-First Century Fiction (London: Palgrave, 2017), 4.

(8.) Jacques Derrida, “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow),” trans. David Wills, Critical Inquiry 28.2 (2002): 373, 374, 380.

(9.) Susan Fraiman, “Pussy Panic versus Liking Animals: Tracking Gender in Animal Studies,” Critical Inquiry 39.1 (2012): 91. Fraiman sharply questions the preeminence of this account in the light of work by women theorists and scientists that emphasizes more positive affective relations with animals. Cary Wolfe’s overview of the field, “Human, All Too Human: ‘Animal Studies’ and the Humanities,” PMLA 124.2 (2009): 564–575; and Matthew Calarco’s Zoographies: The Question of the Animal from Heidegger to Derrida (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), for instance, identify Derrida’s account as foundational.

(10.) Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Picador, 2009), 1.

(11.) Derrida, “Animal That Therefore I Am,” 399.

(12.) The analogies between race and species are both powerful and troubling in this context. See Kari Weil, “A Report on the Animal Turn,” differences 21.1 (2010): 1–23; Neel Ahuja, “Postcolonial Critique in a Multispecies World,” PMLA 124.2 (2009): 556–563; and Ursula K. Heise, Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016). On the racially and culturally exclusionary aspects of the framework of human rights in fiction, see Elizabeth Anker, Fictions of Dignity: Embodying Human Rights in World Literature (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012).

(13.) On the violence of “the cute,” see Sianne Ngai, Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, and Interesting (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015).

(14.) Laura Brown, Homeless Dogs and Melancholy Apes: Humans and Other Animals in the Modern Literary Imagination (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010), 14.

(15.) Wolfe, “In the Shadow,” in Zoontologies, 6. On the move from “rights to lives,” see Anat Pick, Creaturely Poetics: Animality and Vulnerability in Literature and Film (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 11. See also Colleen Glenney Boggs, Animalia Americana: Animal Representations and Biopolitical Subjectivity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), 10.

(16.) Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin, Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment (London: Routledge, 2010), 135. For her critique of a strong alignment of speciesism with racism, see Heise, Imagining Extinction, where she points out that “suggesting that racism and speciesism are systematically connected in the cultural logic of colonialism does not in and of itself answer the question of what to do when moral obligations toward oppressed humans conflict with moral obligations toward nonhumans, or what to do when the solutions that would theoretically satisfy both sets of obligations are not available in practice. Nor is it self-evident that such answers could be provided in the abstract, by way of general principles” (166). Ahuja, “Postcolonial Critique,” is also critical of the total alignment of race and species because it risks flattening historical context (558).

(17.) George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) is typically treated this way—as an allegory of Stalinism—although McHugh, in Animal Stories (182); and Mario Ortiz-Robles, Literature and Animal Studies (London: Routledge, 2016), 175–176, argue that Orwell’s novel might also allegorize the treatment of animals.

(18.) Mel Y. Chen, Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012), 98. Similarly, Boggs, Animalia Americana(12), and Ortiz-Robles, Literature and Animal Studies (145–146), acknowledge the prevalence the analogy, parable, and allegory but move beyond their limitations. Nicole Shukin, Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), argues that deconstructive accounts of the animal such as Derrida’s are less free from the burdens of figuration than they acknowledge: she argues that using animals as tropes risks “reenvisioning animals as pure intensities and undying specters” (42)—all too exploitable by a capitalist economy that “renders” animals imaginary and fungible. Though he does not write from an explicitly Marxist perspective, Philip Armstrong, What Animals Mean in the Fiction of Modernity (London: Routledge, 2008), too, observes that the “modern disposition that regards living things as abstractions” makes them into “commodities, capital, raw material, objects of study” (186).

(19.) Giorgio Agamben, The Open, trans. Kevin Attell (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), 28; Esposito, Third Person, 11.

(20.) See Heather Keenleyside, Animals and Other People: Literary Forms and Living Beings in the Long Eighteenth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), esp. 17; Armstrong, What Animals Mean, 3.

(21.) Derrida, “Animal That Therefore I Am,” 405.

(22.) Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life, trans. E. F. N. Jephcott (London: Verso, 2005), 116.

(23.) See Randy Malamud, Reading Zoos: Representations of Animals and Captivity (New York: New York University Press, 1998); and Nigel Rothfels, “Immersed with Animals,” in Representing Animals, ed. Randy Rothfels (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002), 199–224. Harriet Ritvo’s The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987) points out the symbolic mastery implied by zoos’ spatial organization: beginning in 1840, animals were displayed according to the standard taxonomic categories for vertebrates, demonstrating “nature not only confined and restrained, but interpreted and ordered” (218). This taxonomy would elicit from zoogoers what Robert Young calls “colonial desire,” a desire associated with political power that has its roots in the idea of classifying humans as part of the animal kingdom on the hierarchical scale of the Great Chain of Being. Robert Young, Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture, and Race (London: Routledge, 1995), 6. Irus Braverman, in Zooland: The Institution of Captivity (Stanford, CA: Stanford Law Books, 2013), however, draws on further concepts theorized by Michel Foucault to argue that the contemporary zoo should not be understood as carceral but, instead, pastoral, extending a long-standing spiritual logic of God’s care for humans to human care for animal lives.

(24.) Anker, Fictions of Dignity, 22.

(25.) See Huggan and Tiffin, Postcolonial Ecocriticism, 172; and Elisha Cohn, “Paperback Tigers: Breaking the Zoo,” Contemporary Literature 56.4 (2015): 568–600.

(26.) Yann Martel, Life of Pi (Boston: Mariner, 2001), 302, 86.

(27.) Martel, 317.

(28.) Armstrong, What Animals Mean, 178, 179.

(29.) Eka Kurniawan, Man Tiger, trans. Labodalih Sembiring (London: Verso, 2015), 49.

(30.) See Marina Frolova, “The Sea, the Volcano, and the Tiger: Some Animistic Symbols in Oral Tradition and Modern Indonesian Literature,” International Journal of Humanity Studies 1.1 (2017): 31.

(31.) Aravid Adiga, The White Tiger (New York: Free Press, 2008), 150, 237.

(32.) Justin Omar Johnston, “‘A Nother World’ in Sinha’s Animal’s People,” Twentieth-Century Literature 62.2 (2016): 127.

(33.) As the novel illuminates, animal studies has sometimes been termed “animality studies”; but as Boggs, Animalia Americana, notes, the ease with which animality can be detached from actual animals proves problematic (14).

(34.) Lauren Beukes, Zoo City (Oxford: Angry Robot, 2010). On biopolitical fables of human subjectivity, see Nancy Armstrong, “The Affective Turn in Contemporary Fiction,” 55.3 (2014): 463.

(35.) Eduardo Kohn, How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology beyond the Human (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013). 20.

(36.) André Alexis, Fifteen Dogs (Toronto: Coach House Books, 2015), 33, 46.

(37.) Philip Howell, At Home and Astray: The Domestic Dog in Victorian Britain (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015), 20.

(38.) Alexis, Fifteen Dogs, 47.

(39.) Complicating the novel’s aim of critiquing the casual cruelties of the human world, the dogs also suffer because of the uniquely detached vindictiveness of the gods, underlined by Alexis’s detached omniscient narration.

(40.) Wolfe, “In the Shadow,” 1.

(41.) Weil, “Report on the Animal Turn,” 3. See Derrida, “Animal That Therefore I Am,” 397.

(42.) See Jacob von Uexküll, A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans: With a Theory of Meaning, trans. Joseph D. O’Neil (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), esp. 70. According to Uexküll, the human imagination is important in encountering animals because the “unknown worlds” of animals’ phenomenal experience “are revealed only to our mind’s eye and not to our body’s” (42).

(43.) See Lars Bernaerts, Marco Caracciolo, Luc Herman, and Bart Vervaeck, “The Stories Lives of Non-Human Narrators,” Narrative 22.1 (2014): 76. See also Margo DeMello, ed., Speaking for Animals: Animal Autobiographical Writing (New York: Routledge, 2013).

(44.) Alice A. Kuzniar, Melancholia’s Dog (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 29, 56.

(45.) Huggan and Tiffin, Postcolonial Ecocriticism, 150–155.

(46.) John Berger, King: A Street Story (London: Vintage, 2000), 59.

(47.) Patrice Nganang, Dog Days: An Animal Chronicle, trans. Amy Baram Reed (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006), 8.

(48.) Moradewun Adejunmobi, “The Infrapolitics of Subordination in Patrice Nganang’s Dog Days,” Journal of Contemporary African Studies 32.4 (2014): 439.

(49.) Weil, “Report on the Animal Turn,” 10. On Kafka’s story, see also J. M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello (London: Penguin, 2003), in which the fictional novelist discusses the story at some length. See also Margot Norris, “Kafka’s Hybrids: Thinking Animals and Mirrored Humans,” in Kafka’s Creatures: Animals, Hybrids, and Other Fantastic Beings, ed. Marc Lucht and Donna Yarri (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 17; and Naama Harel, “De-allegorizing Kafka’s Ape: Two Animalistic Contexts,” in Lucht and Yarri, Kafka’s Creatures, 54. Bernaerts, Caracciolo, Herman, and Vervaeck argue that Kafka innovates defamiliarizing modes of narration to create an imaginary phenomenological world that, despite its strangeness, affords empathy. Their analysis, however, focuses on his less allegorically charged, more enigmatic story “The Burrow.”

(50.) Yoko Tawada, Memoirs of a Polar Bear, trans. Susan Bernofsky (New York: New Directions, 2016), 24, 165.

(51.) Gregory Cajete, quoted in Eric Cheyfitz, “Balancing the Earth: Native American Philosophies and the Environmental Crisis,” Arizona Quarterly 65.3 (2009): 144; Cheyfitz, 147.

(52.) Brian K. Hudson, “Introduction: First Beings in American Indian Literatures,” Studies in American Indian Literature 25.4 (2013): 6.

(53.) See Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony (New York: Penguin, 1988); Linda Hogan, People of the Whale (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008); Louise Erdrich, Tracks (New York: Henry Holt, 1988) and The Plague of Doves (New York: HarperCollins, 2008); and Frances Washburn, The Sacred White Turkey (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010), among others. I am grateful for suggestions from Carol Warrior.

(54.) MacHugh, 219; and Sara Ahmed, Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality (London: Routledge, 2000), 47.

(55.) Haruki Murakami, 1Q84, trans. Jay Rubin (London: Vintage, 2013), 222, 478.

(56.) Téa Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife (New York: Random House, 2011), 336.

(57.) McHugh, Animal Stories, 13; Boggs, Animalia Americana, 7. Boggs takes the term “critical anthropomorphism” from Weil, “Report on the Animal Turn.”

(58.) Lydia Millet, How the Dead Dream (New York: Mariner, 2008), 136, 137.

(59.) Heise, Imagining Extinction, 48, 57.

(60.) Kuzniar, Melancholia’s Dog, 11, 179.

(61.) Vera Norwood, Made from This Earth: American Women and Nature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993), 190. See also Karla Armbruster, “‘What There Was Before Language’: Animals and the Challenges of Being Human in the Novels of Toni Morrison,” Comparative Critical Studies 2.3 (2005): 363–380.

(62.) Kuzniar, Melancholia’s Dog, 38. On the queerness of petkeeping, see also Monica Flegel, Pets and Domesticity in Victorian Literature and Culture: Animality, Queer Relations, and the Victorian Family (New York: Routledge, 2015).

(63.) Christopher Lloyd, “Creaturely, Throwaway Life after Katrina: Salvage the Bones and Beasts of the Southern Wild,” South: A Scholarly Journal 42.2 (2016): 252–253.

(64.) J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace (London: Penguin, 1999), 214; Derrick Attridge, J. M. Coetzee and the Ethics of Reading: Literature in the Event (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 203n16; and Anker, Fictions of Dignity, 180, 181.

(65.) Coetzee, 215.

(66.) Josephine Donovan, The Aesthetics of Care: On the Literary Treatment of Animals (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016), 161, 166. While Attridge sees Disgrace as totally eschewing a portable “model,” Anker suggests that anti-instrumentality itself might constitute a “posture that might better aid South African recovery.” See Attridge, J. M. Coetzee, 190; and Anka, Fictions, 151.

(67.) Pick, Creaturely Poetics, 65.

(68.) Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello, 111.

(69.) Cora Diamond, “The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy,” in Philosophy and Animal Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), 74.

(70.) See Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory (London: Continuum, 2000); Jacques Derrida, “‘Eating Well,’ or the Calculation of the Subject: An Interview with Jacques Derrida,” in Who Comes after the Subject, eds. Eduardo Cadava, Peter Connor, and Jean-Luc Nancy (New York: Routledge, 1991), 96–119.

(71.) Han Kang, The Vegetarian, trans. Deborah Smith (London: Hogarth, 2016), 188.

(72.) Donna Haraway, Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Science (London: Routledge, 1990), 19. See Armstrong, What Animals Mean, 204–220.

(73.) Hearne, Adam’s Task: Calling Animals by Name (New York: Knopf, 1986), 39.

(74.) Haraway, Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan_Meets_OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience (New York: Routledge, 1997), 270, 121.

(75.) Huggan and Tiffin, Postcolonial Ecocriticism, 213.

(76.) Heise remarks that in the trilogy’s conclusion,

Atwood repeats one of the most troubling aspects of a good deal of post-apocalyptic science fiction . . . the tendency to do away with complicated mechanisms of democracy and justice until most of those who might disagree have exited the stage, and then symbolically to inaugurate a new society whose promise of freedom and peace almost inevitably appears like a sleight-of-hand. Even the peace treaty with the pigoons remains unreassuring in this respect, since it is the pigoons’ human-derived brains that bestow on them a kind of honorary citizenship in the new humanity, whereas more robustly inhuman species are not invited, and humans who are judged subhuman are put to death. (Imagining Extinction, 228)

(77.) Haraway, When Species Meet, 17.

(78.) Heise, Imagining Extinction, 201, 227. For a novel about aliens that seems particularly relevant to the concerns of animal studies with the possibility of communication, see China Mieville, Embassytown (New York: Macmillan, 2011).

(79.) See Huggan and Tiffin, Postcolonial Ecocriticism, 190.

(80.) See Mary Midgley, Animals and Why They Matter (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1983); Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England, 1500–1800 (New York: Pantheon, 1983); Harriet Ritvo, The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in Victorian Britain (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989); Donna Haraway, Primate Visions: Gender, Race and Nature in the World of Science (New York: Routledge, 1989); and Carol J. Adams’s The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory (New York: Continuum, 1990). As a major antecedent, see Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s discussions of nature in Dialectic of Enlightenment (New York: Continuum, 1991).

(81.) See Peter Singer, Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals (New York: Avon, 1977); Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983); Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri, The Great Ape Project: Equality beyond Humanity (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993); Cass R. Sunstein and Martha C. Nussbaum, eds., Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); Cora Diamond, “Eating Meat and Eating People,” Philosophy 53 (1978): 465–479; Josephine Donovan, “Animal Rights and Feminist Theory,” Signs 15.2 (1990): 350–375; and Donovan and Carol J. Adams, Beyond Animal Rights: A Feminist Caring Ethic for the Treatment of Animals (New York: Continuum, 1996).

(82.) For more recent work in this vein, see Kathy Rudy’s Loving Animals: Toward a New Animal Advocacy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011).

(83.) See Hearne, Adam’s Task; Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto (New York: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003); and Haraway, When Species Meet.

(84.) See Thomas Nagel, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” Philosophical Review 83.4 (1974): 435–450. It is thus difficult to pinpoint a “humanities” perspective on animal studies: scientific studies in comparative cognition, and the analytic philosophy that engages with those studies rarely features in literary scholarship. I am grateful to Irina Mikhalevich for comments on this point.

(85.) Jacques Derrida, “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow),” trans. David Wills. Critical Inquiry 28.2 (2002): 399. See Berger, “Why Look at Animals?” in About Looking, by John Berger (New York: Vintage, 1992), 3–28.

(86.) Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987); Shukin, 11.

(87.) See Deleuze and Guattari, Thousand Plateaus; Wolfe, Animal Rites; Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009); Nicole Shukin, Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009); Agamben, The Open; and Esposito, Third Person.

(88.) See Haraway, When Species Meet, 20; and Fraiman, “Pussy Panic.”

(89.) Steve Baker, The Postmodern Animal (London: Reaktion, 2002); Jussi Parikka, Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010); Chen, Animacies; Boggs, Animalia Americana; McHugh, Animal Stories; Pick, Creaturely Poetics; and Donovan, Aesthetics of Care.

(90.) See Armstrong, What Animals Mean; Wolfe, Animal Rites; Huggan and Tiffin, Postcolonial Ecocriticism; Christopher Peterson’s Bestial Traces: Race, Sexuality, and Animality (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013); Ahuja, “Postcolonial Critique”; and Heise, Imagining Extinction.

(91.) Marianne DeKoven, “Why Animals Now?,” PMLA 124.2 (2009): 361–369; Wolfe, “Human, All Too Human: ‘Animal Studies’ and the Humanities,” PMLA 124.2 (2009): 564–575; Jennifer Howard, “Creature Consciousness: Animal Studies Tests the Boundaries between Human and Animal—and between Academic and Advocate,” Chronicle of Higher Education, October 18, 2009; Weil, “Report on the Animal Turn”; Marion W. Copeland, “Literary Animal Studies in 2012: Where We Are, Where We Are Going” Anthrozoös 25.1 (2012); and Ortiz-Robles, Literature and Animal Studies.