Zoomorphic Others: The Animalization of Stigma in Modern Literature Open Access

Farist, Kayleah Alicia (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/qn59q427n?locale=en


Zoomorphism, the act of portraying humans with animal characteristics, is prevalent among texts that represent various stigmatized identities: intentionally deviant individuals such as violent criminals, but also individuals marked by categories of physical difference, such as disability and race. There is a historical narrative that frames non-human animal being as brutal, savage, even monstrous; consequently, the traditional reading of zoomorphism is one that emphasizes how this dehumanization works to further "other" the subject. Yet, recent scholarship has troubled the traditional Humanist notion of a proper divide between human and non-human animals. Once this divide is dismantled, the human and non-human animal hierarchy is disrupted, shattering this traditional understanding of the animalized human. Through an analysis of modern literary works, including Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis," Leonora Carrington's The Hearing Trumpet, William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, and Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, I argue that zoomorphism is, in fact, a literary device that works to undermine or subvert these narratives of stigma; the image of the animalized human directly challenges the perceived divide between human and non-human, effectively satirizing the very notion of dehumanization perpetuated by the stigma associated with these various types of deviance.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction: The Animality of Stigmatized Identities 1

II. Hybrid Criminals and Animal Victims: The Brutality of Human Nature in Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov 8

III. Unrecognizable Embodiment: Non-Human Disability in Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" and Leonora Carrington's The Hearing Trumpet 28

IV. The Racial Animal: Fluctuating Beastliness of Slaves and Black Folk in William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! and Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God 46

V. Conclusion: Subverting Otherness Through Zoomorphism 67

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