Précis for Me on Christmas Eve
With great reliance on my amazing faculty, I have a clear direction for my dissertation.
Précis “Expendable Bodies: Literature of the Animal Turn“
The dissertation will explore select literature written during what has now come to be called, "the animal turn." The "animal turn" brackets a range of nearly five decades commencing in the early 1970’s, marked particularly by Peter Singer’s publication of his influential, Animal Liberation, and ending in 2015 with a tentacular proliferation of the question of the non-human animal that has served as a foundational division against which the Post-Enlightenment rational human animal is defined. The animal turn in philosophy and literature has complicated nearly every theoretical discourse across Cultural Studies and beyond. In my introduction I will consider the rise of the so-called "animal rights movement" with a particular focus on how their logics of decreasing the expendability of some bodies began to expose the poverty of philosophical humanism upon which “rights” discourses were based. In Chapter 1, I will consider how notable theorists from Jacques Derrida to Donna Haraway attempt to address this critical intersection for the next forty years. Next, I will offer three comparative literary chapters of work influenced by this largely philosophical impetus: Chapter 2 will attend to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked series and Margaret Atwood’s trilogy MaddAddam. Chapter 3 will explore Octavia Buttler’s Bloodchild and the Xenogenesis trilogy alongside Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spritis. Chapter four will stretch from 1977’s Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko to J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace and Elizabeth Costello. Finally, an epilogue will briefly consider Art Spiegelman’s Maus as an attempt to draw out the haunting logic of the holocaust and genocide that has been at work throughout these narratives -- something that Michel Foucault referred to as "the Post-Apocalyptic mindset" of the latter 20th century. I write this dissertation to explore how theory and literature written during the animal turn explores the latent and overt violences accompanying the question of the animal in a manner artists, activists, and philosophers are still struggling to think beyond the now semi-permeable boundary of human and non-human animal.
My first chapter submission is due March 1 of 2017. I'm admittedly nervous, but I'm tackling it a bit at a time. I have some ideas sketched out and am re-reading through the primary material (which is a lot!). With such guidance as my faculty offers, I'm confident I'll find myself this time next year with a solid dissertation.
Now, if I can just learn to bowl as well as my son...