The Anthropomorphized Animal In Children’s Culture
thesisposted on 24.05.2021, 07:48 by Amy Ratelle
The reliance on animals in children’s literature over the past two centuries has become a key means by which the civilizing process that children go through has been mediated by the animal body. Children are asked both implicitly and explicitly to identify with animals, but then to position themselves as distinctly human through the mode of their interactions with both lived animals and those depicted in literature and film. This core question of identity formation – child/adult, animal/human – forms the foundation of my dissertation, which investigates the overlapping, double-sided rhetorics addressing children, childhood and animals. My dissertation is organized into five areas of interest that pose complementary questions regarding the way in which relationships between animals and children inform and underscore adults’ lived relationships with both of them. Posthumanist scholarship, then, becomes a key means by which to de-prioritize a conception of an exclusively human subjectivity. Cary Wolfe in particular has recently worked to criticize liberal humanism and find ways to push cultural analysis beyond its inherent anthropocentrism in order to combat institutionalized speciesism, which continues to prioritize human beings, thereby excusing the exploitation or extermination of other species. What has been notably overlooked in posthumanism’s challenge to anthropocentric human liberalism, however, is how the human is encultured through literature geared specifically towards a child audience. By examining culturally significant and widely popular works of children’s culture through a posthumanist, or animality studies lens, I argue that Western philosophy’s objective to establish a notion of an exclusively human subjectivity is continually countered in the very texts that ostensibly work to configure human identity. Literature geared toward a child audience reflects and contributes to the cultural tensions created by the oscillation between upholding and undermining the divisions between the human and the animal. My dissertation focuses on the ways in which these works present the boundary between humans and animals as, at best, permeable and in a state of continual flux.