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Flocking together : collective animal minds in contemporary fiction

Tijdschriftbijdrage - Tijdschriftartikel

The remarkable coordination displayed by animal groups such as an ant colony or a flock of birds in flight is not just a behavioral feat; it reflects a full-fledged form of collective cognition. Building on work in philosophy, cognitive approaches to literature, and animal studies, I explore how contemporary fiction captures animal collectivity. I focus on three novels that probe different aspects of animal assemblages: animals as a collective agent (in Richard Powers's The Echo Maker), animals that communicate a shared mind through dance-like movements (in Lydia Davis's The Cows), and animals that embrace a collective "we" to critique the individualism of contemporary society (in Peter Verhelst's The Man I Became). When individuality drops out of the picture of human-animal encounters in fiction, empathy becomes abstract: a matter of quasi-geometric patterns that are experienced by readers through an embodied mechanism of kinesthetic resonance.
Tijdschrift: PMLA-PUBLICATIONS OF THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
ISSN: 0030-8129
Issue: 2
Volume: 135
Pagina's: 239 - 253
Jaar van publicatie:2020