“Are we not Men?”: Reading the Human-Animal Interface in Science Fiction through John Berger’s “Why Look at Animals?”

Andrei Smolnikov


The so-called animal turn in literature has fostered the evolution of animal studies, a discipline aimed at interrogating the ontological, ethical, and metaphysical implications of animal depictions. Animal studies deals with representation and agency in literature, and its insights have fundamental implications for understanding the conception and progression of human-animal interactions. Considering questions raised by animal studies in the context of literary depictions of animals in science fiction, this article threads John Berger’s characterization of the present as a time of radical marginalization of animals in his essay “Why Look at Animals?” through two highly influential science fiction texts: H. G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau and Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Applying Berger’s reasoning to these two novels raises issues of personhood, criteria for ontological demarcation, and the dynamics of power, providing an opportunity to clarify, modify, and refute a number of his finer claims. This process of refinement allows us to track conceptions of human-animal interactions through the literary landscape and explore their extrapolations into various speculative contexts, including the frontiers of science and post-apocalyptic worlds.


science fiction; animal turn; language; ontology

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17951/nh.2020.5.157-171
Data publikacji: 2020-09-04 12:41:39
Data złożenia artykułu: 2019-09-05 06:11:59


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