Call for Chapters: Beastly Modernisms

Animal Figurations in Modernist Literature and Culture

Edited by Alex Goody and Saskia McCracken
Deadline for Abstracts 14 September 2020

This edited volume aims to bring together scholarship from across literature and culture to engage with the animal turn in modernist studies. We welcome work by early career researchers and are particularly interested in chapters which address critical race studies, indigeneity, colonialism, modernisms of the global south and marginalised modernists.

If modernism heralded a moment of socio-political, cultural and aesthetic transformation, it also instigated a refashioning of how we think about, encounter and live with animals. Beasts abound in modernism. Virginia Woolf’s spaniel, Zora Neale Hurston’s dog and mule, Langston Hughes and Leonora Carrington’s cats, James Joyce’s earwig, D.H. Lawrence’s snake, Samuel Beckett’s lobster, Mulk Raj Anand’s cows, and Djuna Barnes’s lioness all present prominent examples of where animals and animality are at the forefront of modernist innovation. At stake in such beastly figurations are not just matters of species relations but of the animal in excess of its capture by culture, language and representation. The attendant questions of human animality, non-human agency and the limits of humanism also open onto broader ideas of social relations, culture, race, sex, gender, capitalism and religion. Modernism’s interest in the figure of the animal speaks to the immense changes in animal life in the early twentieth century, a period where the reverberations of Darwinian theory were being felt in the new life sciences, as well as emergent social theories that employed discourses of species, and developing technologies, media and markets that radically altered everyday human-animal relations. It was also a period in which new theories of human responsibilities towards animals were also being articulated with Donald Watson coining the idea of veganism in 1944.

The recent ‘animal turn’ in the humanities invites new ways of thinking about the beasts that we find in modernist culture. Moreover, animal studies arrives at a point at which modernist studies is already in the process of redefining what modernism means. Turning to modernism’s beasts not only promises fresh ways of understanding its multispecies foundations, but also signals how modernist studies might intervene in contemporary debates around animal life. Building on the foundational work on animals and modernism by Carrie Rohman, Margot Norris, Kari Weil, Derek Ryan and others, the editors invite chapters on animals and all aspects of modernist culture.   Beastly Modernisms focuses on the ‘beastly’ understood as both/and the non-human other of modernity; the contiguous animality of contemporary human existence; the persistence of more than human life; the unknowable animal that is apprehended within the experiments of modernism. The beastly modernisms we seek to explore in this volume are, thus, those “material semiotic knots’ (Donna Haraway 2007) that modernists generated in attempts to apprehended the non-human animal world. We propose, following Rosi Braidotti, that animal figurations be conceived as ‘living maps’ that acknowledge ‘concretely situated historical positions’ (Braidotti 2011). Indeed, ‘animal signifiers [are] deeply bound up with human cultural, political, and social meaning’ (Mel Y. Chen 2012), and in this volume we are endeavouring to respond to Maneesha Deckha’s call for ‘intersectional analyses of animal issues’ (2012). We are particularly concerned to support the work of contingent and early career researchers and in decentring the canons and geographies of modernism. We thus seek new research contributions that interrogate the imaginative animal interventions of modernism, conceived in broad aesthetic, temporal and geographical terms.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Animal Figurations, Signifiers
  • Animals in Critical Race Studies
  • Indigeneity & the Animal
  • Animals &/in Empire/colonialism
  • Animals in the Global South Avant-garde
  • Pacific Beastly Modernisms
  • Blue/Marine Modernism
  • The Creaturely and Beastliness
  • Animal Rights, Ethics, Activism
  • Political Animals
  • Anti/Vivisection Movements
  • Bestial Ontologies and Materialities 
  • Animal Biography
  • SF & Utopias
  • Queer Animals and Sexuality 
  • Anthropocentrism and Anthropomorphism
  • Human Animality and Social Darwinism 
  • Subject and Subjectivity
  • Surrealism
  • Animal Commodification and Capitalism
  • Class, Hierarchy, Status
  • Sex and Gender
  • Religion, Myth and Animism
  • Wildlife and Hunting
  • Animal Trauma, Death, Violence, Warfare
  • Biology, Ethology, Ecology and the Natural Sciences
  • Animal Performance, Circuses, Zoos 
  • Disability and Animals
  • Pets, Companion Species and Domestication
  • Extinction, Ecocriticism, the Anthropocene  
  • Meat Production, Livestock, Agriculture, Working Animals
  • Vegetarianism, Veganism, Eating Animals
  • Modernist Animal Philosophy
  • Posthumanism and Transhumanism
  • Animal Life, Species, Speciesism
  • Form, Medium, Methodology, Narratology 
  • Early and Late Modernist Animals 

By addressing these questions, the book as a whole aims to offer a definitive collection of contemporary scholarship on animals in modernist literature and culture, to showcase the vibrant field of modernist animal studies and illustrate the different methodological/theoretical concerns that are at stake in the study of beastly modernisms.

We invite chapters that address these issues. Submissions are open to all researchers at every level of study. We welcome co-authored work. Please send 500-word proposals for chapters, and any questions, to by 14 September 2020. The deadline for full chapters, 6,000-7,000 words in length (including notes and works cited), will be 30 June 2021. We look forward to reading your proposals.