Alice’s Non-Anthropocentric Ethics: Lewis Carroll as a Defender of Animal Rights
Victorian animal rights
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
History of Great Britain
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AbstractLewis Carroll’s Victorian nonsense fairy-tale fantasies Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) provide plenty of fictional reformulations of the Victorians’ ambiguous relationship with animals. The vanishing and reappearing Cheshire Cat represents language that is ideologically manipulative and poetically subversive and distinguishes the speaking human subject from animals (Lecercle 1994); the Caucus Race led by the Dodo Bird is an absurd rehearsal of the Darwinian evolutionary theory’s competitive struggle for survival (Lovell-Smith 2007), while the dormouse in the teapot evokes how the ownership of certain animals could indicate class belonging (Ritvo 1987). These animals embody a curious otherness radically incompatible with the picara’s human self gradually destabilized by Alice’s numerous shape-shiftings which elicit her misidentification as a flower, a serpent, and a mythical beast. Carroll’s own description of his heroine with positive animal attributes, ‘loving as a dog’ and ‘gentle as a fawn’ (1887) resonates with an ethical agenda outlined in his novels starting out from the multidimensional interspecies relationship that conceives of difference in a non-dualistic, posthumanist deconstructive, Derridean (2008) way. Focusing on pragmatic, political stakes of Victorian animal allegory I unveil in the Alice tales references to Carroll’s support of animal rights, including his anti-vivisectionist commitment explicitly spelt out in his pamphlets and gaining fictional manifestations in his seemingly apolitical fantasies.