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Modern Animals: From Subjects to Agents in Literary Studies

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Advancing theories of literature and animality requires both recognizing the failures of traditional humanist models that separate and elevate people over all "things" animal as well as identifying and developing alternative forms. Along with providing fresh readings and important insights about representative texts in the literary canon, two new books—Carrie Rohman's Stalking the Subject: Modernism and the Animal (2009) and Philip Armstrong's What Animals Mean in the Fiction of Modernity (2008)—illustrate how this challenge is being addressed. Strategically, Rohman works within established textual forms of modern humanity to expand the parameters of who counts as a subject in literature. Armstrong takes a more tactical approach, extending ideas of nonhuman agency in order to frame this very discourse of representation itself as a problem that modern narrative forms bring to a crisis. What thus emerges is a range of textual actions and actors that exceed traditional humanist calculations of the subject. Together these studies frame questions with broader implications for humanistic scholarship: how do textual forms of subjectivity, even of discourse, become historical, and historically flexible, through animal involvements in literary representations?

Affiliations: 1: University of New England


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