ENGL 80600. Children’s Literature and Animal Studies: A Dialogue. Carrie Hintz. CUNY Graduate Center
Feb. 15, 2022
Pain and trauma are things always associated with blackness/Black people. It’s something we are always dealing with, reeling from, healing from, praying to God from. This can easily get translated to pathology if placed in a singular historical context and gets media transmitted/translated. One of the things I’ve observed from working in publishing is that the first stories for children to read about Black people were those from slavery and the Civil Rights era. Up from your bootstraps kind of stories. How many stories must be read before we get to black joy and pleasure, even for children? There are those kinds of books out there, especially recently, that exist about just being, just being though I admit it is very important and necessary to know about historical (long) moments like slavery (institution) and Civil Rights (a continuous movement). This is what piqued my interest about the “pain” I have chosen as a keyword. Before reading this entry I am thinking the various markers of pain, who bears, who gets to witness and given voice afterwards. Who gets to testify and clarify and reborn…What useful power can I take away from pain? Then I thought, animals make the perfect subjects to talk about pain.
Braithwaite privileges biology in animals in her essay. Braithwaite begins by asking “But what do we know about the pain of those that cannot talk to us?” ( p. 251) Braithwaite is referring to infants and animals. Braithwaite discusses the physical mechanisms in place, which would be the nervous system and that being aware of the pain might help prevent (p. 252) This lets me think about how is pain encoded.
And consider following quotes:
“Consider the mechanisms that underlie pain processes and then investigate the capacity for these kinds of process to occur in different animals.” (p. 252)
“An animal that cannot detect or protect itself against something that is damaging is less likely to survive and reproduce and so would be at a selective disadvantage compared with animals who can detect and avoid injury.” (p.254)
“Some of the current debate regarding what we mean by animal pain occurs because we have relied too heavily on the definition of human pain. Doing so, however, sets up an unfair comparison.” (p. 259)
“Human subjective experience of pain can be influenced by attention, mood state, beliefs…” (p. 257)
All of these quotes still lead me pondering, however ironically, that after all this I’m thinking about one of my favorite books about pain. Pain of loss: the book “Badger’s Parting Gifts” by Susan Valley (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8xsYq4JXSs ). This not a book about painful slavery or its legacies or the struggle for the right to be treated as a human. This book is about pain from death and in the past two coved pandemic years, it’s been a pain I’ve experienced and in some ways still reeling from. Why do we as, humans, still use animals to carry and express our pain?