• Canines: Unlikely Protagonists in the Novels of Coetzee, Saramago and Shibli

    Hania A.M. Nashef (see profile)
    CLCS 20th- and 21st-Century, GS Prose Fiction, Iberian Studies, TM Literary Criticism
    Coetzee, J. M., 1940-, Saramago, José
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Disgrace, Blindness, Minor Detail, anthropomorphism
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    Anthropomorphism, which combines two Greek words, anthropos and morphe, meaning “human” and “form’ respectively, is a term that reflects our attribution of human characteristics to non-human animals and objects, bestowing upon them agency (Taylor 2011: 266). In this respect, we elevate the status of the non-human animal, moving it from being an object to being a subject. In addition, exercises in anthropomorphism often lead to a hybridity that results in the “mixing of human and animal traits where animals are often endowed with characteristics assumed to be human specific, such as emotion and free will” (Taylor 2011: 270). Furthermore, our normal understanding of hierarchy within our social life is that the designation of subject can only be awarded to human beings, as “only humans have agency,” as “other non-human entities are [considered] passive recipients” of a power that can only be exerted by humans (Taylor 2011: 274, 275). In addition, denied the logos, animals are often defined as creatures without compassion or reason. In this chapter, I discuss a number of dogs in novels by J.M. Coetzee, José Saramago and Adania Shibli that illustrate how these particular animals are not only subjects with agency but also protagonists in their own right. The dogs in Blindness, Disgrace and Minor Detail exhibit a form of humanism that is markedly missing in some of the human subjects in the novels. Moreover, they exhibit free will and emotions that are often associated with the human being, and denied to animals.Claire Parkinson writes: “The term anthropomorphism is derived from the Greek anthrōpos (human) and morphē (form). Until the latter half of the nineteenth century, it referred to the practices of attributing deities with human like characteristics or bodily form. By the first decades of the twentieth century, anthropomorphism had come to be regarded, in a pejorative sense, as the attribution of uniquely human characteristics to other animals” (2020: 2).
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    3 months ago


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