Hybridity and Intersections among Queer Theory, Animal Studies, Child Studies, and Late-Victorian and Edwardian Children’s Literature

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Alves, Alicia
queer theory , animal studies , child studies , children's literature , Victorian , Edwardian
This dissertation examines intersections among children, animals, and queerness in late-Victorian and Edwardian children’s literature and the representation of hybrid characters or relationships. Hybridity includes inter-species kinship structures and also physically hybrid bodies or animals performing the human. I argue that human-animal hybridity, through its resistance to binary thinking about the human/animal divide, also leads to instances of queer resistance to heteronormative binaries or ideals, and resistance only gets stronger the further the children move from the adult or human world. Hybridity is most challenging to heteronormative or anthropocentric ideals when the hybridity is accepted or promoted by the animals rather than forced upon them. The animals’ support of hybridity that questions the divide between human/animal also has the potential to challenge other seemingly strict binaries such as male/female or adult/child. This resistance in children’s literature also opens up space for child characters to question adult assumptions about future (hetero)sexuality and expected hierarchies. I analyze instances of human-animal hybridity in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (1911), Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty (1877), Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908), and finally Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books (1894/1895). Chapter 1 analyzes hybrid kinships in The Secret Garden; Chapter 2 examines the horse as human-animal and animal-machine hybrid in Black Beauty; Chapter 3 explores the male homosocial (and anthropomorphized) animal world in The Wind in the Willows; finally, Chapter 4 examines human-animal hybridity and kinship in The Jungle Books. My dissertation focuses on the shift from the “real” animal in the “real” world, in texts such as The Secret Garden and Black Beauty, to more anthropomorphic animals, in texts such as The Wind in the Willows and The Jungle Books, and worlds that are further removed from the more normative and anthropocentric adult one.
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