To save this undefined to your undefined account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your undefined account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
PMLA welcomes essays of interest to those concerned with the study of language and literature. As the publication of a large and heterogeneous association, the journal is receptive to a variety of topics, whether general or specific, and to all scholarly methods and theoretical perspectives. The ideal PMLA essay exemplifies the best of its kind, whatever the kind; addresses a significant problem; draws out clearly the implications of its findings; and engages the attention of its audience through a concise, readable presentation. Manuscripts in languages other than English are accepted for review but must be accompanied by a detailed summary in English (generally of 1,000–1,500 words) and must be translated into English if they are recommended to the Editorial Board. Articles of fewer than 2,500 words or more than 9,000 words are not considered for publication. The word count includes notes but excludes works-cited lists and translations, which should accompany foreign language quotations. The MLA urges its contributors to be sensitive to the social implications of language and to seek wording free of discriminatory overtones.
Myrtle Wilson, Tom Buchanan's working-class lover in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, wants “one of those police dogs” as an ornament “for the apartment,” because “they are nice to have” (27). Tom, Myrtle, and our narrator, Nick Carraway, have just arrived at Penn Station and gotten into a taxi, in the novel's second chapter. Myrtle boarded the train in Queens, site of her home in the Eliotic “valley of ashes,” joining Nick and Tom on the rail commute from their respective class-bound Long Island Eggs, upper East and nouveau West, into the city that is “built with a wish out of non-olfactory money” (69).
One early thursday evening in 1892, Katharine Bradley returned to her suburban home and recorded the following entry in the diary she shared with Edith Cooper, her niece, lover, and literary collaborator:
Thursday evening Oct 6th 1892.
∗Tennyson is dead. We saw it in the Underground this morning—
Death of Lord Tennyson Illustrated biography a penny.
The news of Tennyson's death affected Bradley profoundly, propelling her back to a pastoral, “Victorian” past that seems remote from her urban fin de siècle world of the Underground and rapid-cycle tabloid news. Bradley is returned, she writes, to “days when ‘The Miller's Daughter’ bounded my horizons.—My way of looking at the universe was unquestionably determined by Tennyson” (Field, Works 5: 5).
This essay interrogates Sergei Eisenstein's critique of D. W. Griffith's montage aesthetic, arguing that, in Griffith's Orphans of the Storm, historical perspective is constituted in opposition to (rather than as a result of) the forward surge of the film's montage. Griffith represents historical consciousness through the narrative figure of trembling, harking back to Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, another text in which the movements of history are registered on the bodies of witnesses who struggle to keep their composure. Both Griffith and Dickens construct a social world driven to extremes by competing ideological forces and imagine historical subjects whose reactions to emergency—witnessing and trembling—hold them apart from it. Ultimately, these gestures of response suggest a tendency in melodramatic texts to construct a normative subjectivity that resists the antithetical underpinnings of melodrama itself.
The treatment of Estella in Dickens criticism has tended to replicate the ways she is explained by Pip and the other characters in the novel. This article reveals a more complex psychology in her by unpacking the significance of three of the novel's intertexts—The London Merchant, Hamlet, and Frankenstein—as those texts seem to have been received by mid-Victorian audiences. Reading the differences between the Estella revealed in this authorial intertextual commentary and the Estella produced by Pip's experiential narration reveals in Dickens a more complicated negotiation with gender ideology and a greater intuition of its destructive forces than he is generally credited with. The article thus suggests a way to understand more fully the complex relations to ideology found even in works traditionally considered “patriarchal” and to recuperate such figures as Estella, who exceed—while seeming to promulgate—the worst stereotypes of their eras.
This essay draws on Freud's case history of the Wolf Man (From the History of an Infantile Neurosis; 1918), which presents one of the most famous dreams in the history of psychoanalysis, in order to consider a moment in David Copperfield (1850) that constitutes the earliest childhood memory in Dickens's fiction. These two moments in Freud and Dickens occupy problematic sites that seem to slide between fantasy on the one hand and dreams on the other, and an examination of them helps open up the question of how texts remember—or fantasize—childhood and its power to structure adult experience.
The privileging of aesthetic over material value in the nineteenth-century English novel is reiterated in the marital choice offered the hero when he is positioned between a rich woman and a poor one. Through the contrast between these two female figures, the novels invoke the dilemma that, Adam Smith argued, troubled individuals in an increasingly commercial culture: the choice between wealth and virtue. The rich woman or heiress embodies the concerns about wealth lurking at the heart of narratives that apparently celebrate the overcoming of such material interests. Read against the backdrop of nineteenth-century political economy and anthropology, she reflects the novel's engagement with England's economic development over the long nineteenth century. She also reveals the irresolvable tension inherent in the cultural project, which begins in the middle of the eighteenth century, of disentangling the discourse of political economy from that of literature.
Focusing on the prolific mid-Victorian writing of Anthony Trollope, this essay takes present-day theoretical interest in “actually existing cosmopolitanism” for its cue. Trollope's works remind us that from a Victorian perspective, the word cosmopolitan was more likely to evoke the impersonal structures of capitalism and imperialism than an ethos of tolerance, world citizenship, or multiculturalism. Trollope wrote novels eulogizing England's rootedness alongside first-person accounts of colonial travel, making him the arch exemplar of a two-party foreign policy discourse. Whereas Barsetshire novels such as The Warden are archetypes of autoethnographic fiction, Trollope's travel writings construct a transportable mode of racialized Anglo-Saxonness. Evoking the asymmetrical play between two notions of property—heirloom “rootedness” and capitalist “cosmopolitanism”—Trollope's foreign policy imaginary illuminates the difficulties of a genuinely negotiated rooted cosmopolitanism. Exploration of the nineteenth century's actually existing cosmopolitanisms offers the opportunity to historicize the transnational contexts and experiences of an era in which capitalist and imperial expansion was as dynamic as the globalizing processes of our own day.
This essay argues that Edwin Abbott's Flatland brings into focus the wide-ranging implications of the dethroning of what Victorians regarded as the preeminent representational system: Euclidean geometry. The contemporary debate surrounding the challenge to Euclid, conducted not just in mathematical but also in psychological, philosophical, and aesthetic terms, turned on an anxiety that signs might not have the capacity to bridge subjective and objective worlds, and Flatland seeks solace for this uncertainty by granting even empty signs unprecedented virtues.
The poverty of the single-digit sum in my title, I trust, raises a brow. After all, the ubiquity of those we conventionally shepherd into the enclosure of the term animals stands out as a feature of both Shakespearean material and early modern texts generally. The animal footprints in this archive result from the frequency with which early moderns encountered living and butchered animals in their daily routines. Hardly an urban, rural, or domestic scene was painted without them. For illustration, Jan van der Heyden's cityscape of Amsterdam's main public square dramatizes the civic visibility of dogs and horses (alongside the town hall and the New Church) and muddies any distinction between beasts of burden and creatures of leisure—especially beneath that vast early modern sky (see next page). In a prescient intimation of modernity, Thomas More's Utopia imagined a noncitizen, butchering class performing its labors, deemed too brutal for citizens to witness, out of sight (75). Early modern humans had more contact with more animals than most of us now do. For a species with weak ears and a terrible nose, out of sight is out of mind.
In a 1966 lecture to the american anthropological association, Ray L. Birdwhistell presented a silent film showing families visiting elephant exhibits at zoos around the world. This film, along with the audio of Birdwhistell's lecture and an epilogue, was then released in 1969 by the East Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute with the title Microcultural Incidents in Ten Zoos. Using his theory of kinesics (roughly, the study of “body language”), a “context control method,” and “purposive” filming of families viewing elephant exhibits, Birdwhistell hoped to demonstrate that physical gestures are not universal but are rather culturally specific and only comprehensible in carefully described contexts (fig. 1). Microcultural Incidents positions the ethnographer as a detached observer dissecting scenes for his audience, translating the language of gestures with the use of a slow-motion projector he calls a “perceptiscope.” Even with his many hours of raw footage and the subsequent analysis with the perceptiscope, however, Birdwhistell's conclusions are remarkably small. Among the gems we learn, for example, are that on trips to the zoo English fathers are the keepers of food and knowledge and unselfconsciously teach their children to speak to elephants and that when the French stick their kids' hands into elephant trunks, the children look at their hands with a mixture of surprise and horror before wiping them off on their clothes. Still, for Birdwhistell kinesics held the promise of revealing hidden truths about people and cultures.
Literary animal studies started for me when the question of animal agency arose in a survey-course discussion of a short, forgettable William Wordsworth poem titled “Nutting.” A shy undergraduate, I hesitantly volunteered an interpretation of the text as reflecting the squirrel's thoughts on the subject of seasonal change.
When Jack London's human characters interact with dogs and wolves in texts such as the call of the wild (1903) and White Fang (1906), erotic fireworks often light up the wild. The love between the dog Buck and his human partner, John Thornton, in The Call of the Wild is characterized as “[l]ove, genuine passionate love. … love that was feverish and burning, that was adoration, that was madness” (59–60). In White Fang, the half wolf of the title experiences a love for Weedon Scott that “manifested itself to [White Fang] as a void in his being—a hungry, aching, yearning void that clamored to be filled. It was a pain and an unrest; and it received easement only by the touch of the new god's presence” (244). Instead of reading these passionate nonhuman characters as “real” animals, literary and cultural critics often read them as “men in furs,” in Mark Seltzer's memorable phrase, leading to interesting and important discussions of, for example, homoerotic interactions between men.
Pixar's animated feature wall-E (2008) revolves around a sentient robot, a small trash compactor who faith fully continues his programmed duties seven hundred years into the future, after humans have long abandoned their polluted home planet. Landscaped into skyscrapers of compacted waste, Earth no longer seems to harbor any organic life other than a cockroach, Wall-E's only and constant friend. Similarly, in Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004; ), sequel to the groundbreaking first Ghost in the Shell anime, the love of the cyborg police officer Batou for his vanished colleague Motoko Kusanagi is surpassed only by the care and affection he displays for his pet basset hound. These films are two recent examples of works of science fiction in which the emergence of new kinds of humanoid consciousness in robots, cyborgs, or biotechnologically produced humans is accompanied by a renewed attention to animals. Why? In what ways does the presence of wild, domestic, genetically modified, or mechanical animals reshape the concerns about the human subject that are most centrally articulated, in many of these works, through technologically produced and reproduced human minds and bodies?
The title of understudies, Mary Wilkins Freeman's 1901 short story collection, situates us in the realm of theater, of performance—the space where actors and their seconds together learn the grammars of verbal and visual representation.1 On the cover of Understudies, cameo portraits linked by garlands mimic the arrangement of actors' head shots on a playbill (fig. 1). But the profiles are those of a horse, a dog, a parrot, a monkey, a squirrel, and a cat. Freeman's book displays on its face the art of representing animals and humans—and animals as humans. And her title articulates a distinctly turn-of-the-century (if still unresolved) question: who are the understudies and who are the leads—animals or humans?
And of all nonsensical things, I keep thinking about the horse! Not the boy, but the horse, and what it might be trying to do.
—Peter Shaffer, Equus
A “zoontology” is currently uncovering the productive difficulty that animals bring to philosophy. in essays in a volume by leading philosophers entitled Philosophy and Animal Life, the contours of the challenge that animals pose to philosophy emerge from discussion of, among other texts, J. M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals, where both rational argumentation and poetic invention are (in Cora Diamond's inspired borrowing from Ted Hughes) “shouldered out”2 by the impossibility of comprehending and conveying everything that animal lives challenge us to recognize about our human selves. A long-standing response to that impossibility has been simply to declare the subject irrelevant or even—as Peter Shaffer's unhappy protagonist in Equus says—“nonsensical” (21). As that play glosses the role of animality in psychoanalysis, to put the horse before the boy is to violate the anthropocentric grammar of the normal. A similar assumption of animal irrelevance characterizes public culture, camouflaged by such ubiquitous and unexamined “animal-loving” practices as keeping pets and watching wildlife films.
The animal has ceased to be one of the privileged terms that indexes the european subject's relation to otherness. The metaphysics of otherness rested on an assumed political anatomy, implicitly modeled on ideals of whiteness, masculinity, normality, youth, and health. All other modes of embodiment, in the sense of both dialectical otherness (nonwhite, nonmasculine, nonnormal, nonyoung, nonhealthy) and categorical otherness (zoomorphic, disabled, or malformed), were pathologized and cast on the other side of normality—that is, viewed as anomalous, deviant, and monstrous. This morphological normativity was inherently anthropocentric, gendered, and racialized. It confirmed the dominant subject as much in what he included as his core characteristics as in what he excluded as other.
—Emily Dickinson, The Letters of Emily Dickinson (Johnson 449)
In 1866 Emily Dickinson Ended a lapse of eighteen months in her correspondence with Thomas Wentworth Higginson by sending him three lines that connect the major concerns of her work: death, subjectivity, and the conditions of knowledge. When Higginson later published these lines in “Emily Dickinson's Letters,” he explained that the poet would on occasion include “an announcement of some event, vast to her small sphere as this,” the death of her dog who had been her companion for sixteen years (450). In measuring Dickinson's loss biographically by the “small sphere” of her life, Higginson sets aside her ability to “wade grief” (Franklin 312) and situates her letter within the sentimental culture of pet keeping, which had transfigured a predominantly agricultural practice (pet initially referred to a lamb) into a staple of genteel domesticity and bourgeois subjectivity (Mason; Grier; Kete; Ritvo; Thomas). Far from participating uncritically in the roles and relations Higginson projects onto her, Dickinson interrogates the formation and gendering of sentimental subjectivity (Dillon; Blackwood) by placing “Carlo died” in relation to the other two lines—the signature and the call for instruction. “E. Dickinson” refers ambiguously to Emily or to her father, Edward Dickinson (Holland 146). The signature pluralizes the subject; it doubles and ultimately obscures “E.”'s gender. This ambiguous subject hinges on the animal's death as a scene of pedagogy: it stands in the liminal space between the announcement of Carlo's death and the request: “Would you instruct me now?”
My argument here is simple: that the problem of literary character can best be understood from the standpoint of animal studies, as an instance of broader philosophical and scientific problems in theorizing the human/animal divide.