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Relational ethics: writing about birds; writing about humans

Journal Article


Abstract


  • Philip Armstrong points out that scholars in Animal Studies are ‘interested in attending

    not just to what animals mean to humans, but what they mean to themselves; that is, to

    the ways in which animals might have significances, intentions and effects quite

    beyond the designs of human beings’ (2008: 2). This essay asks: what are the ethics of

    representing birds in fiction? It promotes the model offered by Linda Alcoff in ‘The

    Problem of Speaking for Others’ (1992). Alcoff offers a set of ‘interrogatory practices’

    for writers, including an analysis of our speaking position to expose any implicit

    discourses of domination at work, and, most importantly, a consideration for the effects

    of ‘speaking for’ on actual animals. Using Alcoff’s interrogatory practices as a

    framework, I examine the ways writers have allowed for ‘ethical relationships’ between

    humans and birds in fictional spaces. I investigate the function of birds as metaphor in

    three Australian novels: Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book (2013), Evie Wyld’s All the

    Birds, Singing (2013) and Catherine McKinnon’s Storyland (2017). In each of these,

    birds serve a symbolic function but are also given space to allow for their own

    experiences, voices, and knowledges. I will also reflect on the attempts I have made in

    my own novel, The Flight of Birds (2019), to grapple with the discourses of power at

    work and the impact of that power on the lives of real birds.

Publication Date


  • 2019

Citation


  • Lobb, J. M. "Relational ethics: writing about birds; writing about humans." Text: journal of writing and writing courses .Special Issue No. 57 (2019): 1-14.

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/lhapapers/4069

Number Of Pages


  • 13

Start Page


  • 1

End Page


  • 14

Issue


  • Special Issue No. 57

Place Of Publication


  • Australia

Abstract


  • Philip Armstrong points out that scholars in Animal Studies are ‘interested in attending

    not just to what animals mean to humans, but what they mean to themselves; that is, to

    the ways in which animals might have significances, intentions and effects quite

    beyond the designs of human beings’ (2008: 2). This essay asks: what are the ethics of

    representing birds in fiction? It promotes the model offered by Linda Alcoff in ‘The

    Problem of Speaking for Others’ (1992). Alcoff offers a set of ‘interrogatory practices’

    for writers, including an analysis of our speaking position to expose any implicit

    discourses of domination at work, and, most importantly, a consideration for the effects

    of ‘speaking for’ on actual animals. Using Alcoff’s interrogatory practices as a

    framework, I examine the ways writers have allowed for ‘ethical relationships’ between

    humans and birds in fictional spaces. I investigate the function of birds as metaphor in

    three Australian novels: Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book (2013), Evie Wyld’s All the

    Birds, Singing (2013) and Catherine McKinnon’s Storyland (2017). In each of these,

    birds serve a symbolic function but are also given space to allow for their own

    experiences, voices, and knowledges. I will also reflect on the attempts I have made in

    my own novel, The Flight of Birds (2019), to grapple with the discourses of power at

    work and the impact of that power on the lives of real birds.

Publication Date


  • 2019

Citation


  • Lobb, J. M. "Relational ethics: writing about birds; writing about humans." Text: journal of writing and writing courses .Special Issue No. 57 (2019): 1-14.

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/lhapapers/4069

Number Of Pages


  • 13

Start Page


  • 1

End Page


  • 14

Issue


  • Special Issue No. 57

Place Of Publication


  • Australia