The literary representation of pro-animal thought : readings in contemporary fiction
This thesis analyses the representation of pro-animal thought in literary fiction published over the last thirty years. Recently, critics have begun eclectically to trace animal rights arguments in past literature, attaching criticism to politics in a familiar way (considering the recent history of the literary academy). However, they have neither explained the holistic picture of human-animal relations in individual texts, nor how such questions relate to a specific literary context. This thesis, on the other hand, involves more a pinpointing of the particular value of literary works for extending the horizon of current ethical debates about animals than a partisan mobilisation of literary criticism in the service of animal rights. To that end, each chapter offers a thoroughgoing reading of an important text in the story of contemporary fiction's ethical encounter with the animal. I contextualise these extended readings with more succinct discussion of the wide range of contemporary authors who represent proanimal thought. This approach requires several theoretical methodologies, though all are within the realm of feminist post-structuralism. Butler's work on the discursive production of sex illuminates the ethical representation of species in Atwood's Surfacing. The representation of animals (both literary and political) in Walker's The Temple of My Familiar is explained by situating the animal within feminist debates about the relation of literary writing to the discursive formation of race. Levy's avant-garde representation of the animal in Diary of a Steak is explained by placing a literary-theoretical reading inspired by Bakhtin and Irigaray within a broader cultural study of the BSE crisis. Derrida's recent work on ethics and the question of the animal helps me explore the literary representation of ethical vegetarianism in Coetzee's The Lives of Animals. My concluding remarks suggest how the results of my research might impact on the future role of animal ethics in literary criticism.