Feb 23rd – Animal Autobiographies

–From the get go we see “master’s house” “plantation”  “Darkie.” That really sets the stage/tone. 1877. Author’s intent aside, who might those terms identify with more? Who might feel that they were the ones being described? “That’s me they are talking about…”

–“By the eighteenth century in Europe, we’d invented Nature. Nature is all the other species and all the places where they live and we don’t. Idealized or demonized, Nature is humanity’s Other. We stand out- side it and above it.”  (p. 21, Ursula K. Le Guin) This short statement says it all for me. This is something I’ve been trying to get at … this othering of animals, this othering of nature, this need to other/difference… the flip side is people “getting back to nature…” A state humans can recognize themselves again? Is there a connection there with children’s literature or is it a reframing/reinforcement of human/animal hierarchies and dichotomies? Is it: “These animals are just like me…but I know I’m still the higher species…” ?

–I’m wondering how the project of animal biographies (“to argue for the better treatment of animals by humans” (p. 63, Tess Cosslett)) would pair with the slave narratives of the 19th century? Off the top I’m thinking “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl/Harriet Jacobs….

One thought on “Feb 23rd – Animal Autobiographies

  1. Carrie Hintz

    Hi Jaïra,
    I am looking forward to considering these amazing questions/ concerns as they arise in conversation tonight (and in future weeks). I thought that Cosslett began to draw links between these animal narratives and slave narratives, but left the work unfinished, so there is room/ a need for future scholarship. This idea of “reversal but then restoration of human superiority” comes up a lot in children’s narratives…and there’s some interesting material written about it. Looking forward to discussing! CH

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