Challenging humanism: human-animal relations in recent postcolonial novels.

Borrell, Sally (2009) Challenging humanism: human-animal relations in recent postcolonial novels. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

This thesis identifies and examines a conjunction between white postcolonial cultural and species concerns within recent novels from South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The argument takes as a starting point a suggestion by Philip Armstrong that postcolonial and animal studies discourses might form an alliance based on a common antagonist: humanism. Here, this idea is applied in the context of literature by white postcolonial writers. I explore the extent and nature of the alliance and the degree to which it can be called successful within the selected novels. Each of the five chapters concerns a different text, and the thesis is also divided into two sections. The first addresses the contrasting approaches to humanism and to animals offered by J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace (1999) and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi (2001). The second addresses the representation of these themes in Fiona Farrell’s Mr Allbones' Ferrets (2007), Julia Leigh’s The Hunter (1999), and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003), set in the past, present and future respectively, to illustrate the temporal dimension of the white postcolonial-animal alliance in question. Overall, the thesis emphasises the relevance of species concerns within white postcolonial culture, and posits the existence of a thread running through contemporary white postcolonial novels in which animals are a priority. All of the novels examined here, I argue, represent animals as more than victims in relation to humanist discourse: they emphasise animals’ potential to disrupt that discourse by affecting the attitudes of individual humans or by resisting humanist endeavours by their own actions. The result of this, I suggest, is that animals appear as allies in white postcolonial cultures’ attempts at self-definition against historical colonialism and contemporary globalisation, while white postcolonial literature portrays animals in ways that promote positive human perceptions of them.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Research Areas:Masters and Doctorates > Theses
Middlesex University Schools and Centres > School of Media and Performing Arts > Media > English Language and Literature
ID Code:6520
Deposited On:20 Sep 2010 08:49
Last Modified:19 Jul 2014 11:34

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