Getting Close to Animals with Alice Walker's The Temple of My Familiar

in Society & Animals
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Abstract

This article offers an analysis of Alice Walker's novel The Temple of My Familiar. It critiques the claim that humans' ability to use language, regarded in this article as equivalent to one sense of the word representation, marks the essential difference of humans from animals. The argument has two stages. The first claims that the novel offers a way to bridge this supposed fundamental difference in order that representation, in a second sense of speaking or advocating for animals, can effectively occur. Importantly, the context of this is Walker's anti-oppressive politics of race and gender. It analyzes the portrayal of characters who understand their lives, the past, and their relationships with nonhuman animals by creating myths and stories, rather than via conventional written history. The second stage of the argument shows that this essentially creative understanding of worldviews other than the "norm" of western culture transcends the distance that language is said to insinuate between humans and animals. Creative, imaginative understanding allows humans to get close to animals. "Can one speak of the animal? Can one approach the animal?" (Derrida, 1997, p. 271)

Getting Close to Animals with Alice Walker's The Temple of My Familiar

in Society & Animals

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