The Wild Animal's Story: Nonhuman Protagonists in Twentieth-Century Canadian Literature through the Lens of Practical Zoocriticism
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis is available for library use on the understanding that it is copyright material and that no quotation from the thesis may be published without proper acknowledgement.
Reason for embargo
Publication of articles and a monograph
Despite the characteristic cross-disciplinarity of animal studies, interactions between literary and scientific researchers have been negligible. In response, this project develops a framework of practical zoocriticism, an interdisciplinary lens which synthesizes methodologies from science, animal advocacy, and literature. A primary focus of this model is the complex relationship between literary representations of animals, scientific studies of animal cognition, and practical and theoretical work advocating animal protection. This thesis proposes that the Canadian wild animal stories of Ernest Thompson Seton and Charles G.D. Roberts operate at an intersection of these three factors. Their potential for facilitating reciprocal communication has not been recognized, however, due to their damaged representation within Canadian literature as a consequence of the Nature Fakers controversy. By re-contextualizing and re-evaluating these texts this project illuminates the unique contributions made by these authors. It also offers new evidence of the intersecting discourses and ideologies that stimulated the controversy. Re-defining the genre has enabled this project to uncover a selection of twentieth-century Canadian texts that perpetuate its core aims and characteristics. This project suggests that after the Nature Fakers controversy, the wild animal story diverged into two new forms: ‘realistic’ and ‘speculative.’ By placing the wild animal story in relation to a broader canon of Canadian literature, this thesis identifies three distinct modes of animal representation. These methods of relating to literary animals in the Canadian context are the fantasy of knowing the animal, the failure of knowing the animal, and the acceptance of not-knowing the animal. This novel characterization of Canadian literature is a product of the diverse, interdisciplinary approaches offered by the practical zoocriticism framework.
PhD in English