Call for Contributors: Speaking for Animals

Rough proposal and call for contributions

Edited book by Margo DeMello

Working title: Speaking in Tongues: Writing Animal Autobiographies

Contributions sought for an edited collection on the topic of animal autobiographical writing.

For thousands of years, in the myths and folktales of people around the world, animals have spoken in human tongues.  A number of Native American myths, for example, begin like this: “Long ago, when all people and animals spoke the same tongue…”

Western literary traditions, too, have abundant examples of animals speaking, and, in many cases, writing their own memoirs.

Animals speak, famously, in children’s stories and in cartoons and films, and today, social networking sites and blogs are both sites in which animals—primarily pets—write about their daily lives and interests.

How to explain this cross cultural and longstanding tradition of animal speaking and writing, of what can be called human-animal ventriloquism?

On one level, this surely speaks to the human desire, perhaps most notably in recent years, to get inside animal minds, to try to understand what they think, how they see the world, and to share, a bit, in their umwelt.

But how else to make sense of the human impulse to not simply attempt to know animal consciousness, which in some ways we know is impossible, but to put it to words?

This book proposes to address this question from a variety of perspectives. My hope is that it will include chapters on:

  • animal biographical and autobiographical writing from a literary perspective
  • the sociological implications of speaking through animals
  • the philosophical question of whether we can ever know what animals think
  • psychological perspectives about seeing into others’ minds
  • cultural studies perspectives on popular cultural representations of talking animals
  • a piece on animal blogs, Lolcat, Dogster, and other social networking sites for pets
  • ethological understandings of animal minds, and how those might translate into animal voices
  • questions about anthropomorphism
  • the stylistic and grammatical choices made by writers giving voice to animals
  • the insufficiency of (human) language to capture animal minds
  • the ethical implications of giving voice to animals

Please email me at margo@rabbit.org if you are interested in contributing to this book. I have five possible chapters already, on subjects ranging from speaking dogs to a rat autobiography to Bunspace to interspecies dialogue. Once I have all of the proposed chapters lined up, I will put together a more formal proposal and shop it around. I am working with an August 2010 deadline for receipt of all chapters.

Please crosspost.

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