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Re-imagining the Animal in J.M. Coetzee’s 'The Lives of Animals'. Unsettling Boundaries of Representation

Amy Wattam

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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Englische Sprachwissenschaft / Literaturwissenschaft


Master's Thesis from the year 2019 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: A, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, course: Masters degree research in English Literature, language: English, abstract: This paper re-imagines the animal in J.M. Coetzee’s "The Lives of Animals”. It focuses on how Coetzee’s narrative problematizes dominant discourses through questioning their authority. Furthermore, the narrative offers alternatives to anthropocentric conceptions of the animal that are based upon reason-centred and dualistic thought. The duality of human versus animal is explored alongside other dualities deconstructed in the text, such as fiction versus non-fiction, and philosophy versus literature. Coetzee’s representation of these constructs and their interconnectedness is investigated, specifically with regard to positively developing human-animal relations. Through exploring what Coetzee calls the 'sympathetic imagination', his alternative contribution to the field of human-animal relations will be considered. This study focuses on the space for re-imagination that Coetzee has provided with "The Lives of Animals". It highlights the role literature can and ought to play in this re-imagination, and why this re-imagination is necessary for the development of human-animal relations. Posthumanism will be used as a theoretical lens throughout, as it appears to resonate closely with Coetzee’s project. Both the form and the content of the text will be analysed, highlighting their interconnected significance in Coetzee’s project and the continued relevance of interventions such as this. J.M. Coetzee’s "The Lives of Animals" (1999) is a literary representation of, and intervention into, human-animal relations. It is an experimental literary destabilization of the generic boundaries that underlie the systematic (mis)representation and (mis)treatment of nonhuman animals, specifically their mass commodification in contemporary societies. The text provides a critique and negotiation of anthropocentric reason and its ramifications for nonhuman animals.

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Philosophy, J.M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals, Literature