Homeless Dogs and Melancholy Apes: Humans and Other Animals in the Modern Literary Imagination

Overview

In eighteenth-century England, the encounter between humans and other animals took a singular turn with the discovery of the great apes and the rise of bourgeois pet keeping. These historical changes created a new cultural and intellectual context for the understanding and representation of animal-kind, and the nonhuman animal has thus played a significant role in imaginative literature from that period to the present day.

In Homeless Dogs and Melancholy Apes, Laura Brown shows ...

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Overview

In eighteenth-century England, the encounter between humans and other animals took a singular turn with the discovery of the great apes and the rise of bourgeois pet keeping. These historical changes created a new cultural and intellectual context for the understanding and representation of animal-kind, and the nonhuman animal has thus played a significant role in imaginative literature from that period to the present day.

In Homeless Dogs and Melancholy Apes, Laura Brown shows how the literary works of the eighteenth century use animal-kind to bring abstract philosophical, ontological, and metaphysical questions into the realm of everyday experience, affording a uniquely flexible perspective on difference, hierarchy, intimacy, diversity, and transcendence. Writers of this first age of the rise of the animal in the modern literary imagination used their nonhuman characters—from the lapdogs of Alexander Pope and his contemporaries to the ill-mannered monkey of Frances Burney's Evelina or the ape-like Yahoos of Jonathan Swift—to explore questions of human identity and self-definition, human love and the experience of intimacy, and human diversity and the boundaries of convention. Later literary works continued to use imaginary animals to question human conventions of form and thought.

Brown pursues this engagement with animal-kind into the nineteenth century—through works by Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning—and into the twentieth, with a concluding account of Paul Auster's dog-novel, Timbuktu. Auster's work suggests that—today as in the eighteenth century—imagining other animals opens up a potential for dissonance that creates distinctive opportunities for human creativity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"In this delicate and sophisticated book, Laura Brown . . . seeks to restore lost or neglected dimensions of the interplay between animal and human. She focuses on representations of apes, pet monkeys, and lapdogs, and finally turns her attention to fictions narrated by dogs—a Cervantean tradition that has prospered, thanks lately to Paul Auster and Andrew O' Hagan, into the present. . . . Apes, though impugned sometimes as rapists, were also credited with the most delicate sensitivities, including modesty, honor, and justice, and Brown captures the excitement of their gradual discovery through the imaginative flights that attended it."—Jennie Erin Smith, Times Literary Supplement, 26 November 2010

"I read Homeless Dogs and Melancholy Apes with great eagerness and found it to be a book of compelling interest, wonderful erudition, and nuanced, sophisticated analysis. It brings innovative perspectives and contexts to bear on core eighteenth-century topics and texts. Laura Brown takes up a leading concern in contemporary cultural studies—human-animal relations—and shows how modernity's paradigms of difference and alterity were articulated in the eighteenth century in ways sharply continuous with our own."—Erin Mackie, Syracuse University

"Homeless Dogs and Melancholy Apes engages with the long-standing conversation about otherness and also with the more recent and very lively conversation among humanists about animals. Laura Brown's work enhances understanding of how an important facet of eighteenth-century culture influenced and was incorporated into eighteenth-century literature."—Harriet Ritvo, Arthur J. Conner Professor of History, MIT

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801448287
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 11/18/2010
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface

1 Speculative Space: The Rise of the Animal in the Modern Imagination 1

2 Mirror Scene: The Orangutan, the Ancients, and the Cult of Sensibility 27

3 Immoderate Love: The Lady and the Lapdog 65

4 Violent Intimacy: The Monkey and the Marriage Plot 91

5 Dog Narrative: Itinerancy, Diversity, and the Elysium of Dogs 113

Index 145

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