Following the advice of my dissertation faculty, I took a little time away and stepped back from my dissertation writing to return with fresh eyes and a more attentive critical capacity. Still, I kept chipping away at my readings over the past month and am now leaping back into the dance of a daily writing routine. Admittedly, it is a little difficult to accustom myself to the habit after even a brief period away. Writing is such hard work. I have spent much of my time over the last week reading my prospectus and the comments that were returned to me by faculty. The clicks of my keyboard have been largely silent. In short, there has been a lot less writing and far more reading over the past two months; it can feel a bit frustrating at times when the word count on your document remains unchanged.
However, I'm finding it a necessary pause and period of research. As recommended by my readers, I need to better understand the theoretical underpinnings of my dissertation and so I am reading some key works that will help me accomplish that goal. Two anthologies in particular will help give me some of the language and critical scaffolding I need to articulate the connections I am trying to make in my dissertation. The first book I am tackling is Earth, Animal, and Disability Liberation.
While some of the essays included are quite good (drawing out the sort of connections I also hope to point out) other essays feel forced and far-reaching. So far, what has been most troublesome are some gross generalizations about disability and education, as well as some failures to account for or require individual accountability. I want to finish the text before responding more. After completing this one, I'll begin Queering the Non/Human.
I am hopeful that in conjunction with the previous anthology, this collection will address the two key areas that I need to better understand and articulate in my dissertation. Namely, the relationship between queer and disability studies with tropes of animals and animality in contemporary fiction. This sort of analysis has been done to some extent already by Mel Y. Chen in Animacies.
I have already read the book and found it fascinating. Unlike Chen's work, I am particularly interested in how these sorts of connections (between animalization and undervalued lives) are at work in contemporary fiction. I think there are specific problems and productive spaces available in the written narrative environment that are not present in other media and scenarios. My goal is that by the end of the summer I will have a much better grasp on the theoretical framework I need for my dissertation. I'm eager to write and polish off this section of the dissertation by the end of the fall in order to return to the works of fiction I have selected.
As one of my advisors has helped me clarify, I want to explore why and how tropes of animals and animality are applied to undervalued lives, which then permits both specific and mass expendability of those lives. It has been while reading some popular and important works of narrative fiction over the recent decades that I have noticed the animal turn has provided a much needed space and opportunity to shift our understanding about what or who receives ethical consideration, to ask why tropes of animals and animality should or should not be derogatory, particularly when applied to the undervalued lives that dominant systems of power wish to manipulate, manage, and exterminate.