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Title: Creaturely encounters : animals in the Libyan literary imaginary
Author: Olszok, Charis
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 0943
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2016
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Animals occupy a strikingly prominent place in modern Libyan fiction. Woven into allegory and evoked in remembrance of nomadic and rural lifestyles, they appear in a variety of narrative guises, most often encountering humans in situations of crisis, rebellion and transformation. Critique of political oppression is certainly one reason for their prominence, while Libya's rapid urbanization and movement into global oil markets represent other important contexts. From Independence in 1951, animals have been used to plot the course of the nation, assess its nomadic past and gauge its uncertain future. Examining fiction from the 1960s until 2011, I read animals, on one level, through allegory, interpreting them as sites for exploring human discourses and practices, and expressing human suffering and violence. I also, however, indicate how their encounters with humans are disruptive of social and political discourses, producing visions of shared human and animal suffering, and a spiritual and environmental wholeness transcending notions of nation. These visions, emerging from reflections on Libya's turbulent history and harsh geography, and marked by the folkloric, Qur'anic and Sufi influences on its fiction, may be read through a 'creaturely poetics' (Anat Pick, 2012), in which the shared physical vulnerability of human and animal is emphasized. Through this poetics, animals become not allegorical mirrors of nation, but 'other worlds' in parallel to it, challenging human fallacies and accepted notions of citizenship, power and possession, and embodying alternative forms of relationality and being. From depictions of childhood to those of subsistence survival and deep ecological history, they are used to track primordial facets of the human and animal condition, with this reflection then brought to bear on modern contexts. As mystical signs and struggling creatures, as well as humanity's former 'self' and subjugated 'other', animals in Libyan fiction express the hardship of existence, as well as offering a means for imagining worlds beyond it.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral