Lo(o)sing Animals: Literary Animal Agency in Nineteenth-Century France
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation examines literary animal presence in three important texts by Gustave Flaubert and Émile Zola. It argues that these representations of animals should be considered potential actors with the capacity for dynamic agency, thus shifting the optic of critical analysis that has often considered literary animals to be the representations of something altogether different from themselves. Collectively, the readings and analysis throughout this study demonstrate the ways that literature (and literary representations) are rich spaces for new articulations of the historical and social contexts of industrialization and colonization in France and France’s colonies during this era, particularly as it pertained to the shifts in the treatment of real animals. Lo(o)sing Animals therefore reveals the implicit connections between the animals in literature and those who were experiencing the changes in practices of agriculture, colonization, and industry. In so doing, and by employing thinking and theory from both Literary and Animal Studies, this dissertation moves to restore to animals – both literary and real – the potential to act as agents in the world(s) that they share with humans. The moments that are examined over the course of the chapters demonstrate different modes of agency ranging from the individual (“I”, in the sense of Florence Burgat’s philosophy for animals’ potential to possess this) to more general considerations of certain species’ unique impact on humans’ lives and culture (and vice versa). Despite these differences in kind, each moment upon which I focus purposefully engages with the animals who often escape notice by most readers because of the way they are taken to be unremarkable: it is this that I aim to show as being, on the contrary, especially remarkable when it comes both to the animals themselves and the literature where one finds them.