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With or Without the "Divine Spark": Animalised Humans and the Human-Animal Divide in Charles Dickens's Novels
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Languages.
2014 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Animals appear in many guises in Charles Dickens’s novels, as wild animals, domestic animals, animals used in the service of humans, and, not least, as images and symbols. Based on a close reading of all of Dickens’s major novels, this thesis centres on the symbolic use of (both metaphorical and actual) animals in the depiction of human characters, the chief aim being to explore a phenomenon that Dickens frequently resorts to, namely, the animalisation of human characters. Certain Dickensian characters are in fact more or less consistently compared to animals – to animals in general, or to specific animals. On occasion, not only individual characters but also groups of characters are animalised, and sometimes to the point of dehumanisation. By and large, being animalised equals being portrayed in a negative light, as if what Dickens himself at one point termed “the divine spark” – the special light accorded to the human brain as opposed to the animal brain – has been extinguished or has at least become almost imperceptible.

Furthermore, in conjunction with the investigation of Dickens’s animalisation of human characters, the thesis discusses his implicit attitude to the human-animal divide and argues that, though largely anthropocentric and hierarchical, it also points to a view of human and nonhuman animals as part of a continuum, with no fixed boundaries. A number of different approaches inform the discussion, but theoretical frameworks such as ecocriticism and, above all, contemporary theory on the significance of Darwin’s ideas in the Victorian era, are foregrounded.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. , 85 p.
Keyword [en]
animalisation, continuum, Darwin, Dickens, ecocriticism, hierarchy, human-animal divide
National Category
Languages and Literature
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-31638OAI: diva2:690775
Subject / course
Available from: 2014-02-04 Created: 2014-01-24 Last updated: 2014-02-04Bibliographically approved

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