Literature and Animal Studies: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Literature and Animal Studies

1st Edition

By Mario Ortiz-Robles


192 pages

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Paperback: 9780415716017
pub: 2016-06-16
Hardback: 9780415716000
pub: 2016-06-16
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pub: 2016-06-17
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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.


"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.

"To be sure, the book raises the theoretical bar right at the beginning when, in the preface, we learn that its ultimate aim is to arrive at "a new version of literary history in which the units of world literature might be construed following the patterns of animals rather than the history of nations; genera rather than genres; biomes rather than languages; taxa rather than texts" (xi)."

-- Roman Bartosch, Universitätsverlag Winter

Table of Contents


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)


Suggested Reading

About the Author/Editors


Mario Ortiz Robles is Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA and the author of The Novel as Event (2010) and co-editor of Narrative Middles: Navigating the Nineteenth-Century British Novel (2011).

About the Series

Literature and Contemporary Thought

Literature and Contemporary Thought is an interdisciplinary series providing new perspectives and cutting edge thought on the study of Literature and topics such as Animal Studies, Disability Studies and Digital Humanities.

Each title includes chapters on:

  • why the topic is relevant, interesting and important at this moment and how it relates to contemporary debates
  • the background of and a brief introduction to the particular area of study the book is intended to cover
  • when this area of study became relevant to literature, how the relationship between the two areas was initially perceived and how it evolved

A glossary of key terms and annotated further reading will feature in every title. Edited by Ursula Heise and Guillermina De Ferrari this series will be invaluable to students and academics alike as they approach the interdisciplinary study of Literature.

Learn more…

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