Animal Studies Journal


Why, one could ask, does such a high proportion of the very best works of recently published literary and creative prose, which choose to engage with climate change, environmental shock, biodiversity crises, and extinction risks – the existential threats we face as a global multispecies population – all tell stories with and of nonhuman animals? My theory, one shared by Amitav Ghosh in The Great Derangement (although with differing conclusions) is that the very nature of the threats we face is a reckoning with our alienation from the nonhuman world. It is a reckoning we need to have, without ‘hiding’ away from our accountabilities. The argument here is that literature, poetry, and creative writings can help us have that reckoning by leading us to explore our storied relations with the nonhuman, especially animals. Ghosh, however, believes that the realist novel – and by implication the ‘highest’ forms of literature – has failed us in this need. This is because the novel has become a bourgeois vassal of numbing entertainments, and in such a form has wholly betrayed us, because it is not capable of coming to terms with the evidence of climate change: that, in simple terms, we are no longer connected to or a part of ‘nature’. That is, the realist bourgeois novel cannot admit we are, and always have been, ‘animals’ dependent on our very real environment.