Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Dickens's Talking Dogs: Allegories of Animal Voice in the Victorian Novel

  • Elisha Cohn

Extract

How does the category of the “animal” contribute to the Victorian novel? In the 1840s and 1850s, magazines offered endless short tales of “animal sagacity” that most commonly featured dogs, demonstrating the virtues of the species. An 1858 article in Household Words, “Old Dog Tray,” observes, “Alas! not a day will pass but we can descry human qualities in the brute, and brute qualities in the human being; and, alas again, how often we find a balance of love, fidelity, truth, generosity, on the side of the brute!” In the 1850s and 1860s, the analogies between human and animal behavior upon which these tales depended became a resource to the growing fields of comparative ethology and evolutionary theory—Frances Power Cobbe would suggest in 1877 that dogs had “reflex morality.” Meanwhile, novels from this period increasingly raised questions of the scientific, political, and aesthetic value of claims of resemblance among species. For Charles Dickens, whose work offered a capacious image of the London population, the question of who belongs in a family, a community, or a nation persistently turned to the status of animals. In his work, animal figures mark meditations on the conditions and limits of social inclusion.

Copyright

Footnotes

Hide All

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to present and discuss selections from this piece to audiences at Dickens Universe, NAVSA, MLA, and the University of Sussex Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Speaker Series. The support of a Cornell Society for the Humanities Faculty Research Grant allowed me to complete this essay.

Footnotes

References

Hide All
Adams, James Eli. “Gyp's Tale: On Sympathy, Silence, and Realism in Adam Bede.” Dickens Studies Annual 20 (1991): 227–42.
Ahmed, Sara. Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality. London: Routledge, 2013.
Anker, Elizabeth. Fictions of Dignity: Embodying Human Rights in World Literature. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012.
Arendt, Hannah. On Revolution. New York: Viking Press, 1963.
Aristotle, . Politics. Volume 2 of The Works of Aristotle, edited by Hutchins, Robert. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952.
Armstrong, Nancy. How Novels Think: The Limits of Individualism from 1719–1900. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.
Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010.
Brantlinger, Patrick. “Dickens and the Factories.” Nineteenth Century Literature 26, no. 3 (1971): 270–85.
Brown, Laura. Homeless Dogs and Melancholy Apes: Humans and Other Animals in the Modern Literary Imagination. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010.
“Cats and Dogs.” Household Words 11, no. 275 (30 June 1855): 516–19.
Cobbe, Frances Power. False Beasts and True: Essays on Natural (and Unnatural) History. London: Ward, Lock, and Tyler, 1875.
Connor, Steven. Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Crane, Walter. Dickens's Dogs; or, The Landseer of Fiction. London: London Society, 1863.
Darwin, Charles. The Expression of Emotion in Men and Animals, edited by Cain, Joe and Messenger, Sharon. London: Penguin, 2009.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Guattari, Félix. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated by Massumi, Brian. London: Continuum, 2004.
Derrida, Jacques. “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow),” translated by Wills, David. Critical Inquiry 28, no. 2 (2002): 369418.
Diamond, Cora. “Eating Meat and Eating People.” In The Realistic Spirit: Wittgenstein, Philosophy, and the Mind, 319–34. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991.
Dickens, Charles. Bleak House, edited by Bradbury, Nicola. 1852–53. London: Penguin, 2003.
Dickens, Charles. Dombey and Son, edited by Sanders, Andrew. 1846–47. London: Penguin, 2002.
Dickens, Charles. Hard Times, edited by Flint, Kate. 1854. London: Penguin, 2003.
Donald, Diana. Picturing Animals in Britain, 1750–1850. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.
Donaldson, Sue, and Kymlicka, Will. “Animals in Political Theory.” In The Oxford Handbook of Animal Studies, edited by Kalof, Linda, DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199927142.013.33 (accessed 2 February 2018).
Esposito, Roberto. Third Person: Politics of Life and Philosophy of the Impersonal, translated by Hanafi, Zakiya. London: Polity, 2012.
Flegel, Monica. Pets and Domesticity in Victorian Literature and Culture: Animality, Queer Relations, and the Victorian Family. New York: Routledge, 2015.
Frederickson, Kathleen. The Ploy of Instinct: Victorian Sciences of Nature and Sexuality in Liberal Governance. New York: Fordham University Press, 2014.
Frow, John. Character and Person. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Furneaux, Holly. Queer Dickens: Erotics, Families, Masculinities. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Gallagher, Catherine. “The Rise of Fictionality.” In The Novel, edited by Moretti, Franco. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. 1:336–63.
Gompertz, Louis. Fragments in Defense of Animals, and Essays on Morals, Souls, and Future State, from the Author's Contributions to the Animals’ Friend Periodical. London: W. Horsell, 1852.
Gray, Beryl. The Dog in the Dickensian Imagination. Farnham: Ashgate, 2014.
Haraway, Donna. A Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003.
Haraway, Donna. When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
“Hard Times (Refinished).” In Dickens: The Critical Heritage, edited by Collins, Philip, 309–13. London: Routledge, 1971.
Hearne, Vicki. Adam's Task: Calling Animals by Name. New York: Knopf, 1986.
Howell, Philip. At Home and Astray: The Domestic Dog in Victorian Britain. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015.
Ingham, Patricia. “Speech and Non-Communication in Dombey and Son.” Review of English Studies 30, no. 118 (1979): 144–53.
Jesse, Edward. Anecdotes of Dogs. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1848.
Keenleyside, Heather. Animals and Other People: Literary Forms and Living Beings in the Long Eighteenth Century. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.
Ketabgian, Tamara. “’Melancholy-Mad Elephants’: Affect and the Animal Machine in Hard Times.” Victorian Studies 45, no. 4 (2003): 649–76, esp. 649–50.
Kohn, Eduardo. How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology beyond the Human. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.
Kreilkamp, Ivan. Minor Creatures: Persons, Animals, and the Victorian Novel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.
Kreilkamp, Ivan. Voice and the Victorian Storyteller. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Kuzniar, Alice. Melancholia's Dog. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.
Losano, Antonia. “Performing Animals / Performing Humanity.” In Animals in Victorian Literature and Culture, edited by Mazzeno, L. W. and Morrison, R. D., 131–46. London: Palgrave, 2017.
Lupton, Julia Reinhard. “Creature Caliban.” Shakespeare Quarterly 51, no. 1 (2000): 123.
Menely, Tobias. The Animal Claim: Sensibility and the Creaturely Voice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.
Michie, Elsie. “Horses and Sexual/Social Dominance.” In Victorian Animal Dreams: Representation of Animals in Victorian Literature and Culture, edited by Morse, Deborah and Danahay, Martin, 145–66. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007.
Miller, John MacNeill. “When Drama Went to the Dogs; or, Staging Otherness in Animal Melodrama.” PMLA 132, no. 3 (2017): 542–56.
“More Dumb Friends.” Household Words 5, no. 109 (24 April 1852): 124–27.
Morritt, Robert D. Echoes from the Greek-Bronze Age: An Anthology of Greek Thought in the Classical Age. Cambridge: Scholars Publishing, 2010.
Nagel, Thomas. “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?Philosophical Review 83, no. 4 (1974): 435–50.
“Old Dog Tray.” Household Words (7 August 1858): 184–89.
[Oliphant, Margaret]. “Charles Dickens.” Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 77 (1855): 451–66.
Pick, Anat. Creaturely Poetics: Animal Vulnerability in Literature and Film. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011.
Picker, John M. Victorian Soundscapes. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Schor, Hilary. Dickens and the Daughter of the House. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Steiner, Gary. Animals and the Limits of Postmodernism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013.
Stockton, Kathryn Bond. The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.
Stout, Daniel. Corporate Romanticism: Liberalism, Justice, and the Novel. New York: Fordham University Press, 2017.
Teskey, Gordon. “Colonial Allegories in Paris: The Ideology of Primitive Art.” In Thinking Allegory Otherwise, edited by Machosky, Brenda, 119–41. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014.
Vanden Bossche, Christopher. Reform Acts: Chartism, Social Agency, and the Victorian Novel, 1832–1867. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.
Velten, Hannah. Beastly London: A History of Animals in the City. London: Reaktion, 2013.
Vermeule, Blakey. Why Do We Care about Literary Characters? Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.
West, Anna. Thomas Hardy and the Animals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.
Woloch, Alex. The One vs. the Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed