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Nonhuman Animal Pain and Capital Punishment in Beckett’s “Dante and the Lobster”

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This article offers a fresh examination of the representation of nonhuman animals in Beckett’s early aesthetics, using “Dante and the Lobster” as a case study. Beckett’s story is illuminated by historical documents including newspaper articles, which will allow readers to see more clearly the deliberate parallels drawn between the question of the lobster’s suffering and the planned execution of a criminal that Belacqua contemplates throughout the day. An alternative reading model of the text, focusing on the Joycean concept of parallax rather than the Dantean concept of pity, will be developed. The article closes by examining Beckett’s views on allegorical readings of texts containing representations of nonhuman animals and his later notes on E. P. Evans’s 1906 work, The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals.

Affiliations: 1: University of Sheffield


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