Animal Studies Journal


This paper proposes a creative neologism: zoognosis, with an added g, to indicate that knowledges can be transmitted virally from animals to humans. If so, what are the animals trying to tell us? Laura Jean McKay’s The Animals in That Country (2020) provides an opportunity to find out. McKay’s prescient novel was written before, but published during, the COVID-19 pandemic, and is about a ‘zooflu’ that enables the infected to understand animals. The author has forged a poetic language based on animal sensory perceptions, what ethologist Jakob von Uexküll termed Umwelten. In doing so McKay effects a ‘becoming-animal’ of the text, reintroducing readers to their own animality. McKay’s ‘perspectivism’ enables us to see from the point-of-view of non-human animals, forcing a reckoning with animal abuse and extractive lifeways. While her speculative fiction is bleak, it offers tools for attunement and thinking-with non-human others.