Literature and Animal Studies
Why do animals talk in literature? In this provocative book, Mario Ortiz Robles tracks the presence of animals across an expansive literary archive to argue that literature cannot be understood as a human endeavor apart from its capacity to represent animals. Focusing on the literary representation of familiar animals, including horses, dogs, cats, and songbirds, Ortiz Robles examines the various tropes literature has historically employed to give meaning to our fraught relations with other animals. Beyond allowing us to imagine the lives of non-humans, literature can make a lasting contribution to Animal Studies, an emerging discipline within the humanities, by showing us that there is something fictional about our relation to animals.
Literature and Animal Studies combines a broad mapping of literary animals with detailed readings of key animal texts to offer a new way of organizing literary history that emphasizes genera over genres and a new way of classifying animals that is premised on tropes rather than taxa. The book makes us see animals and our relation to them with fresh eyes and, in doing so, prompts us to review the role of literature in a culture that considers it an endangered art form.
1. What is it Like to Be a Trope?
2. Equids (Might and Right)
3. Canids (Companionship, Cunning, Domestication)
4. Songbirds (Poetry and Environment)
5. Felids (Enigma and Fur)
6. Animal Revolutions (Allegory and Politics)
"Ortiz-Robles (Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) offers a broad analysis of treatments of animals in literary sources ranging from early myths to present-day works in English and various European languages. Much of the volume is organized around family classifications of animals (e.g., equids, canids, felids), but the book also includes a general discussion of animals as tropes and a chapter on “revolutionary animals.” The author provides brief but insightful analyses of selected examples—highlighted by an extended treatment of poems on songbirds, beginning with samples from standard Romantic poets (Clare, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley) but also ranging into work by modernist and contemporary writers. Part of Routledge’s "Literature and Contemporary Thought" series, this book could serve as a foundational textbook for courses on animals in literature, especially since Ortiz-Robles includes a helpful glossary and suggestions for further reading. The discussion is informed by recent theory, but the writing is clear and accessible. A welcome and substantial contribution to both literary studies and animal studies."
- R. D. Morrison, Morehead State University
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Choice Review, March 2017.
"In this publication, Ortiz Robles ingeniously works his way through the working of literary form on our perception and makes a most compelling case against the myopic focus of some scholars on representation."
- Roman Bartosch, Universitätsverlag Winter