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Humanimalities: Sacrifice and Subjectivation in Literature of "the Animal Turn" Open Access

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This dissertation argues for a greater recognition of the impact “the animal turn” has had on literary studies. The study analyzes a group of influential North American writers critically engaged with fascist formulations of bodily expendability and the entanglement of violence that crosses species boundaries. Narrative accounts of human genocide and nonhuman animal slaughter are key sites of the intersectionality of oppression in theoretical formulations by scholars of Critical Animal Studies. Such narratives offer the opportunity to explore the possibility of homology while acknowledging the limits of any analogy. Literature of “the animal turn” explores the entanglements of subjectivation across humanist and speciesist divides, one that determines in advance if it is permissible to systematically exploit and kill nonhuman animals with impunity. Emphatic in the different experiences of oppression, the narratives analyzed nonetheless identify and critique this speciesist discourse resulting in a tension that acknowledges a shared complicity in discursive violence while calling out for a new response to the question of the animal. This new response, I argue, requires a merger of the humanities and sciences: what I call a new Humanimalities. Close readings of Gregory Maguire’s The Wicked Years, Octavia E. Butler’s Xenogenesis, Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spirits, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil draw out implicit and explicit critiques of what Jacques Derrida characterized as the “sacrificial structure” of the Western subject. By highlighting literature’s critical engagement with the discourse of species, this dissertation explores the complicated navigations of selected narratives as they attempt to resist calculations of expendability without resorting to what one critic has characterized as an, “egalitarian pluralism of life forms and lifeways." Each narrative struggles with a utopian impulse of the total liberation for which Critical Animal Studies calls, an acknowledgement of the different experiences of non-human animal hierarchies, and an acknowledgement of their own narrative’s complicity in animal genocide.

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