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Chapter 7 - Contemporary

Animal Form and Zoontology

from Part I - Literary Periods

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 October 2023

Derek Ryan
Affiliation:
University of Kent, Canterbury
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Summary

This chapter proposes that the representation of animals in contemporary writing is best understood as “literary zoontology”: the portrayal of animal existence, and of sociality among animals and humans, as an intertwined story of the reality of more-than-human life and literary meaning. The framework adopted is principally literary-theoretical. By analyzing some key contemporary critical approaches to making sense of animal life, I argue for attention to the “animal form” of contemporary texts, in which literary animal lives are not dissected into their actual and imaginary, embodied and aesthetic, parts. The analysis then opens onto a key example: George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The animal form of Animal Farm configures together what are normatively understood as essentially different “kinds” of living and being: human and animal, species and individual, speculative and actual, aesthetic and real. Indeed, focusing through the lens of literary zoontology offers us new ways to discover Orwell’s literary animals within the history of human-animal relations. As such, it is one way that literary reading can take us beyond the human-animal divide.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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  • Contemporary
  • Edited by Derek Ryan, University of Kent, Canterbury
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Animals
  • Online publication: 26 October 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009300032.009
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  • Contemporary
  • Edited by Derek Ryan, University of Kent, Canterbury
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Animals
  • Online publication: 26 October 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009300032.009
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Contemporary
  • Edited by Derek Ryan, University of Kent, Canterbury
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Animals
  • Online publication: 26 October 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009300032.009
Available formats
×