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

Andrei Smolnikov

Abstract


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.


Keywords


science fiction; animal turn; language; ontology

Full Text:

PDF

References


Auden, Wynstan Hugh. 1937. “Spain.” In The Norton Anthology of English Literature, ed. Stephen Greenblatt, 8th ed., vol. 2, 2424-2427. Norton.

Berger, John. 1977. “Why Look at Animals?.” In About Looking, 3-28. Random House.

Bhabha, Homi. 1984. “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse.” October 28: 125–133. doi:10.2307/778467. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/778467)

Burt, Jonathan. 2005. “John Berger’s “Why Look at Animals?”: A Close Reading.” Worldviews 9 (2): 203–218. doi:10.1163/1568535054615321. (https://brill.com/view/journals/wo/9/2/article-p203_4.xml)

Conrad, Joseph. (1899) 2007. Heart of Darkness. Penguin Books.

Dick, Philip Kindred. (1968) 2017. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Random House.

Gordon, Joan. 2008. “Gazing across the Abyss: The Amborg Gaze in Sheri S. Tepper’s ‘Six Moon Dance.’” Science Fiction Studies, 35 (2): 189-206. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/25475138)

Gordon, Joan. 2016. “Responsibilities of Kinship: The Amborg Gaze in Speculative Fictions about Apes.” Extrapolation, 57 (3): 251-64. (https://online.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/doi/10.3828/extr.2016.14)

Gordon, Joan. 2010. “Talking (for, with) Dogs: Science Fiction Breaks a Species Barrier.” Science Fiction Studies, 37 (3): 456-65. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/25746446)

Haraway, Donna. 1985. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late 20th Century.” In The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments, ed. Joel Weiss, Jason Nolan, Jeremy Hunsinger, and Peter Trifonas, 119-158. Dordrecht: Springer.

Kress, Nancy. 2007. “Ethics, Science, and Science Fiction.” In SciFi in the Mind’s Eye: Reading Science through Science Fiction, ed. Margret Grebowicz, 201-09. Open Court.

Lippit, Akira Mizuta. 2000. Electric Animal: Toward a Rhetoric of Wildlife. University of Minnesota Press.

Palumbo, Donald. 2013. “Faith and Bad Faith in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.” The Journal of Popular Culture, 46 (6): 1276-88. (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jpcu.12088)

Snyder, E. E. 2013. “Moreau and the Monstrous: Evolution, Religion, and the Beast on the Island.” Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural 2 (2): 213-39. https://www.muse.jhu.edu/article/52099.

Vinci, Tony M. 2014. “Posthuman Wounds: Trauma, Non-Anthropocentric Vulnerability, and the Human/Android/Animal Dynamic in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.” The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association 47 (2): 91–112. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44066191.

Vint, Sherryl. 2008. “‘The Animals in That Country’: Science Fiction and Animal Studies.” Science Fiction Studies. 35 (2): 177–88. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/25475137)

Vint, Sherryl. 2007. “Speciesism and Species Being in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.” Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal 40 (1): 111–26. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44030161.

Waal, Frans de. 2001. The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections by a Primatologist. Basic Books.

Weil, Kari. 2010. “A Report on the Animal Turn.” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 21 (2): 1-23. doi:10.1215/10407391-2010-001. (https://read.dukeupress.edu/differences/article/21/2/1-23/60618)

Wells, Herbert George. (1896) 2005. The Island of Doctor Moreau. Penguin Books.




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


Statistics

Total abstract view - 326
Downloads (from 2020-06-17) - PDF - 0

Indicators



Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2020 Andrei Smolnikov

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.