Early nineteenth-century British literature is overpopulated with images of dead and deadly animals, as Chase Pielak observes in his study of animal encounters in the works of Charles and Mary Lamb, John Clare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, and William Wordsworth. These encounters, Pielak suggests, coincide with anxieties over living alongside both animals and cemeteries in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-centuries. Pielak traces the linguistic, physical, and psychological interruptions occasioned by animal encounters from the heart of communal life, the table, to the countryside, and finally into and beyond the wild cemetery. He argues that Romantic period writers use language that ultimately betrays itself in beastly disruptions exposing anxiety over what it means to be human, what happens at death, the consequences of living together, and the significance of being remembered. Extending his discussion past an emphasis on animal rights to an examination of animals in their social context, Pielak shows that these animal representations are both inherently important and a foreshadowing of the ways we continue to need images of dead and deadly Romantic beasts.
Table of Contents
exhuming beasts. Beasts at the table: Charles and Mary Lamb and roast animals. Living together: John Clare's creature community. Mourning in Eden's churchyard: Clare's animal bodies. Dead(ly) beasts: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the wandering cemetery. Eccentric beasts: Byron's animal taboo and transgression. Landed beasts: William Wordsworth, the white doe, and the cuckoo.
'[Pielak] provides us with a single sentence that effectively sums up his study: 'Inasmuch as Lamb created a space of animal friendship, Clare invited animals to share in communion and to mourn alongside humans, Coleridge sought the deadly beast to stave off corpse contagion, Byron could not maintain human life in light of animal bodies, and Wordsworth, haunted by animal voices, made a home for himself against the surfaces of animal bodies, so must we' (pp. 153-4). This directive is one we now need to appreciate and work to follow.' Review of English Studies