Dr Helen Cousins & Dr Kerry Myler
Helen and Kerry led a discussion on representations of the human and the non-human in contemporary women’s literature, bringing together the relatively new critical field of Animal Studies with more established theoretical approaches such as Postcolonialism, Feminism and Psychoanalysis. Each offered a short paper introducing their current research on this topic.
Kerry’s paper, "Gender, Madness and Bestiality in Contemporary Women’s Writing" examined the ways in which the boundaries between the human, animal and vegetal are linked to contemporary issues around gender and madness in women’s experimental writing. Drawing on Jean Baudrillard’s chapter ‘The Animals: Territory and Metamorphoses’ in Simulacra and Simulation (1981; trans. 1994), she argued that the connections between women’s madness and the bestial in contemporary women’s writing might offer an alternative reading of madness, one less concerned with the notion of the unruly (female) unconscious and more concerned with notions of territory.
Helen’s paper, "‘Some foxes’: Exploring the human/animal borderland through metamorphosis" explored three recent short stories which describe metamorphoses between human and fox. Literary foxes are most understood via the story, The History of Reynard the Fox (as translated into English by William Caxton in 1481) which places foxes at the edges of domestication; wild but adaptable enough to take advantage of their proximity to human activity. This paper explored how the stories stage an encounter between nature and civilization and argued that metamorphosis offers a challenge to the apparently impermeable boundary between humans and nonhuman animals.