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'Agents of description' : animals, affect, and care in Thalia FieldU+2019s Experimental Animals: A Reality Fiction (2016)

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

In this article, I explore questions of laboratory animal agency in dialogue with Thalia FieldU+2019s literary text U+201CExperimental Animals: A Reality FictionU+201D (2016). Using the framework of U+201CcareU+201D (understood, following MarĂ­a Puig de la Bellacasa 2017, as a multi-dimensional concept comprising affect, ethics, and practice), I consider how FieldU+2019s synaesthetic descriptions of animal suffering create an affective response in readers, alerting them to a shared carnal vulnerability. Indeed, rather than anthropomorphizing animals through narration or focalization, Field U+201Cstays with the bodyU+201D to consider how animals call to us not as experimental objects, but as ethical subjects, how they become U+2013 in other words U+2013 agents of the description (Stewart 2016). To develop this idea, I introduce the U+201CpracticedU+201D dimension of care. More specifically, I explore how Field uses narrative strategies like first-person narration and second-person address, U+201Cbridge charactersU+201D (James 2019), and juxtaposition to morally structure the text and encourage U+201Ctransspecies alliancesU+201D between readers and represented animals. I argue that such devices direct and train affect, allowing us to better appreciate how conceptions of nonhuman animal agency are always contextualized within particular sets of social, cultural, historical, and disciplinary frames and practices.
ISSN: 2280-9643
Issue: 1-2
Volume: 8
Pages: 115 - 134
Publication year:2020