Homeless Dogs and Melancholy Apes

Homeless Dogs and Melancholy Apes: Humans and Other Animals in the Modern Literary Imagination

Laura Brown
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Homeless Dogs and Melancholy Apes
    Book Description:

    In eighteenth-century England, the encounter between humans and other animals took a singular turn with the discovery of the great apes and the rise of bourgeois pet keeping. These historical changes created a new cultural and intellectual context for the understanding and representation of animal-kind, and the nonhuman animal has thus played a significant role in imaginative literature from that period to the present day.

    In Homeless Dogs and Melancholy Apes, Laura Brown shows how the literary works of the eighteenth century use animal-kind to bring abstract philosophical, ontological, and metaphysical questions into the realm of everyday experience, affording a uniquely flexible perspective on difference, hierarchy, intimacy, diversity, and transcendence. Writers of this first age of the rise of the animal in the modern literary imagination used their nonhuman characters-from the lapdogs of Alexander Pope and his contemporaries to the ill-mannered monkey of Frances Burney's Evelina or the ape-like Yahoos of Jonathan Swift-to explore questions of human identity and self-definition, human love and the experience of intimacy, and human diversity and the boundaries of convention. Later literary works continued to use imaginary animals to question human conventions of form and thought.

    Brown pursues this engagement with animal-kind into the nineteenth century-through works by Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning-and into the twentieth, with a concluding account of Paul Auster's dog-novel, Timbuktu. Auster's work suggests that-today as in the eighteenth century-imagining other animals opens up a potential for dissonance that creates distinctive opportunities for human creativity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6216-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. 1 SPECULATIVE SPACE: The Rise of the Animal in the Modern Imagination
    (pp. 1-26)

    In his sentimental novel Melincourt; or, Sir Oran Haut-ton (1818), Thomas Love Peacock depicts a dramatic rescue. The novel’s eligible young heroine, Anthelia, while enjoying the delightful solitude of a bridge over a foaming stream, finds herself trapped on a rock in midtorrent by a sudden deluge. Out of the nearby pine grove a stranger runs with “surprising speed to the edge of the chasm”:

    Anthelia had never seen so singular a physiognomy. . . . The stranger seemed interested for her situation. . . . He paused a moment, as if measuring with his eyes the breadth of the...

  5. 2 MIRROR SCENE: The Orangutan, the Ancients, and the Cult of Sensibility
    (pp. 27-64)

    In a work of medicine and natural history written in Java and published in Amsterdam in 1658, the Dutch physician Jakob de Bondt ( Jacob Bontius) used his account of what we now know to be the Bornean orangutan to recognize a human face in the representation of a nonhuman being:

    Goat-footed Satyrs, Sphinges, and frisky Fauns.

    Not even boys believe in those.

    But contemplate this wonderful Monster

    With a human face, so like human-kind not only

    In groaning, but also in wetting the face with weeping.¹

    A century later, George-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, the premiere naturalist of the...

  6. 3 IMMODERATE LOVE: The Lady and the Lapdog
    (pp. 65-90)

    This chapter examines the imaginative experience inspired by a particular, striking, and now pervasive kind of intimacy—the inter-species intimacy engineered by the rise of modern pet keeping. In early eighteenth-century literature, this novel connection between humans and nonhuman animals is almost exclusively represented through a specific, gendered image: that of the lady and the lapdog. Indeed, this image is the inaugural event for the literary representation of pet keeping in England. The companion animal, in its diverse roles and relationships, becomes a significant figure in English literature by the nineteenth century. But in the prior period the image of...

  7. 4 VIOLENT INTIMACY: The Monkey and the Marriage Plot
    (pp. 91-112)

    Animal-kind appears at the periphery of imaginative representations of marriage in the eighteenth century. A close look at one of these peripheral moments suggests that imaginary animals can even undercut the represented stability of human institutions. As we have seen in the previous chapter, the portrayal of the lapdog’s rivalry with the husband or human lover in the early eighteenth century begins to impinge on the ideal of married intimacy by generating an alternative fantasy of inter-species love. But a different animal inspires a more direct attack on the conventional notion of love and marriage as the ultimate goal of...

  8. 5 DOG NARRATIVE: Itinerancy, Diversity, and the Elysium of Dogs
    (pp. 113-144)

    Early in Paul Auster’s novel Timbuktu (1999), Mr. Bones, the canine protagonist and narrative consciousness of this nonhuman testimonial to homelessness, demonstrates that he is qualified for the role of implied narrator by proving his grasp of human language:

    Mr. Bones understood. . . . This had been the case for as long as he could remember, and by now his grasp of Ingloosh was as good as any other immigrant who had spent seven years on American soil. It was his second language, of course, and quite different from the one his mother had taught him, but even though...

  9. INDEX
    (pp. 145-156)