H. G. Wells, Derrida, and Our Animal Selves (And Lack Thereof)

Karim Sharif, Occidental College

Abstract

H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau challenges a socially established definition of humanity by articulating, analyzing, and elucidating the human subject’s proximity to animality. Moreau syncretizes the classifications of human and animal into the “Beast Folk” — a group of characters that through medical process exist as an amalgam of human and animal traits — and emphasizes a failing animal-human binary by confronting the struggle to define “human” against the fortuitous and subversive context of the “animal”. This invokes a scrutinization of what is implied about humanity if it is defined via its negation. This fragile apparatus' self-imposed undoing is occasioned by two eccentric and similar events in the text: the murder of a rabbit by one of the Beast Folk, and the murder of two rabbits by the central character Mr. Prendick. These contrasting moments call into question the character of the laws the Beast Folk must abide by and elucidates how the social concept of “human” they so aspire to fails to observe their intrinsic connection to the social concept of “animal”. The Beast Folk’s trans-human disposition precipitates an irreconcilable failure in the socially-perceived idea of "natural" law, which in turn informs a politicization of the abjectly animal in an effort to rectify the all too human un-recognition of political engagement. Working through the aporia of humanity demonstrated in Jacques Derrida’s The Animal That Therefore I Am, my project is to engage the seemingly human politic of the Beast Folk of Moreau in the wake of Judith Grant and Vincent Jungkunz’s Political Theory and the Animal-Human Relationship. I contend that a critical reading of Moreau invokes an assertion of the distinction between an ideological text and a materialist world, the contradiction of "human" and "animal".

 
Nov 12th, 2:00 PM Nov 12th, 2:15 PM

H. G. Wells, Derrida, and Our Animal Selves (And Lack Thereof)

HUB 367

H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau challenges a socially established definition of humanity by articulating, analyzing, and elucidating the human subject’s proximity to animality. Moreau syncretizes the classifications of human and animal into the “Beast Folk” — a group of characters that through medical process exist as an amalgam of human and animal traits — and emphasizes a failing animal-human binary by confronting the struggle to define “human” against the fortuitous and subversive context of the “animal”. This invokes a scrutinization of what is implied about humanity if it is defined via its negation. This fragile apparatus' self-imposed undoing is occasioned by two eccentric and similar events in the text: the murder of a rabbit by one of the Beast Folk, and the murder of two rabbits by the central character Mr. Prendick. These contrasting moments call into question the character of the laws the Beast Folk must abide by and elucidates how the social concept of “human” they so aspire to fails to observe their intrinsic connection to the social concept of “animal”. The Beast Folk’s trans-human disposition precipitates an irreconcilable failure in the socially-perceived idea of "natural" law, which in turn informs a politicization of the abjectly animal in an effort to rectify the all too human un-recognition of political engagement. Working through the aporia of humanity demonstrated in Jacques Derrida’s The Animal That Therefore I Am, my project is to engage the seemingly human politic of the Beast Folk of Moreau in the wake of Judith Grant and Vincent Jungkunz’s Political Theory and the Animal-Human Relationship. I contend that a critical reading of Moreau invokes an assertion of the distinction between an ideological text and a materialist world, the contradiction of "human" and "animal".