Figuring the Beast: The Aesthetics of Animality in American Literature, 1900-1979

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Title: Figuring the Beast: The Aesthetics of Animality in American Literature, 1900-1979
Author: McGill, Christopher
Abstract: "Figuring the Beast" analyzes the work of Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Robinson Jeffers, and Elizabeth Bishop to reveal literature as a register for a cultural anxiety over human-animal relations that developed throughout the twentieth century. For each of these writers, literary expression was a forum for attempting to solve, or "figure out," complicated ethical questions regarding animals. And, in addressing these questions, each writer also had to answer the question of how best to figure, or characterize, nonhuman others in their work. "Figuring the Beast" thus pursues the close connections between questions of ethics and representation. This dissertation begins by analyzing the relationship between literature and theories of animal mind developed around the turn of the twentieth century. The second chapter then reads a selection of Jeffers's work and argues that, despite his medical-science background and his philosophy of "Inhumanism," his poetry rehearses anachronistic habits of figuring animals. The next chapter analyzes the function of nonhuman characters in London's
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1794/12394
Date: 2012


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