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Deconstructing Anthropomorphism: The "Humanimal" Narratives of Kenneth Grahame, Beatrix Potter, and Richard Adams

LEATHERLAND, DOUGLAS,PETER (2019) Deconstructing Anthropomorphism: The "Humanimal" Narratives of Kenneth Grahame, Beatrix Potter, and Richard Adams. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis proposes that popular narratives categorized as children’s animal stories – Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908), Beatrix Potter’s tales (1902-30), and Richard Adams’ Watership Down (1972) – feature characters which are rendered anthropomorphic in a diversity of overlapping and contradictory ways. Each of these narratives draws on a complex and varied tradition of anthropomorphic animals in literature. Due to their popularity, they have received various critical responses which pose different meanings implied by the author’s use of anthropomorphic tropes. My study aims to amalgamate these readings into a meta-critical analysis of the anthropomorphisms in the work of the three authors. Beginning with a historical overview of anthropomorphism across the disciplines and the key debates surrounding this supposedly fixed concept, this study questions the implications made about the human condition which are inherent in assumptions that a text is representing a character in an anthropomorphic way. To be anthropomorphic, such modes of representation must necessarily attribute features which are exclusively human, but even when we deconstruct previously held assumptions of anthropomorphism in the work of popular writers of animal stories, we find that what does or does not constitute anthropomorphism is a multifarious and complex issue. While at times the anthropomorphisms in these narratives are explicit and draw on popular elements of fable and fantasy, at other times they merge with more naturalistic representations. The figure of the “humanimal”, which constitutes a neither/both structure of relation between the human and the animal, emerges as the most relevant figure as we follow the trajectories of anthropomorphic tropes in the narratives of Grahame, Potter and Adams. While the humanimal figure is often identified in the animal narratives of authors such as Franz Kafka, I propose that by deconstructing anthropomorphic tropes, popular “children’s” animal stories may also be considered humanimal narratives.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Anthropomorphism; nonhuman; animals in literature; posthumanism; posthuman; deconstruction; humanimal; anthropocentrism; theriomorphism; children's literature
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:07 Mar 2019 11:56

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