In part I think we can attribute (if not necessarily wave away without further examination) a lot of the leaps Melson’s argumentation seems to make to the stakes of Why the Wild Things Are – identifying connections between children and animals in literature and art as firstly and worryingly under explored. One question I did have may well be answered elsewhere in the monograph, but I’m interested in the temporality of gender and sexuality implied or associated in broad, culturally-weighty strokes, as pertains to animals. When are animals gendered, and is gender (as a visual performative or action-based association) inherently anthropocentric? What does it mean to gender nonhuman animals, or to assume that nonhuman animals can be categorized within the gender binary? What are the ethics of associating animals regardless of said gender to gendered categories within childhood (such as the mention of girlhood and Romantic-era portraiture)?
This brings me to Pax, which I think is interesting in a variety of ways that this question won’t really get at. In what way is Pax employed as a symbol (for a kind of boyhood, or the implications of human interaction with the natural world, or the effects of wartime violence) and in what ways may he seem more ‘symbolic’ perhaps because he is rendered in such a sensorily engaged way? Melson refers to children as not only imaginative in nature, but objects ripe for the imaginative projections of adults. Animals can certainly be understood similarly as well. How do the sensory and the imaginative interact, particularly in moments that bridge realism (the realism of the natural world and of war) with imagining how an animal or a child might interact with these?
Or rather, can we think about Children’s literature, particularly works that engage with or imagine what it is like to be an animal, as constantly an untidy process of translation? How do the interspersed images and words of Pax ease or complicate the translational process, or invite the reader as an active adapter or translator in their own right(s)?
The idea of translation gives us so much here…thank you for that! And I really like your remarks about the “sensory” and the “imaginative.” Looking forward to discussing the Melson as well…it came highly recommended from a bunch of my animal studies colleagues, but it really doesn’t hold up well! CH