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Chapter 4 - Romantic

Animal Bonds and Animal Death

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

Romantic-era writing affirms the ideal of a bond between human and animal, while often showing this bond destroyed by the killing of the nonhuman animal. This chapter explores the treatment of such bonds, and their destruction, in the light of Mark Payne’s argument that literary representations of dying animals incorporate a sacrificial logic by which the nonhuman animal’s death enables the development of the fully human subject and the expression of that humanity in writing. In Samuel Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancyent Marinere, William Wordsworth’s Hart-Leap Well, Lord Byron’s Mazeppa, and William Blake’s "The Fly," I argue that elements of this "humanizing" process can be traced, but that the poems are characterized by ambivalence: too troubled by animal death, too uncertain about the efficacy of the message they attempt to draw from it, or in the case of “The Fly,” too wedded to the radical equivalence of all beings to be fully committed to a story of progress through sacrifice. The chapter ends with a discussion of John Clare’s badger poems and “To the Snipe,” in which there is a radical refusal of sacrificial logic.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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  • Romantic
  • 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/10.1017/9781009300032.006
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  • Romantic
  • 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/10.1017/9781009300032.006
Available formats
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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.

  • Romantic
  • 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/10.1017/9781009300032.006
Available formats
×