Date of Award
M.A. in English
Jaime L. Harker
Dogs have a crucial place in articulating ideas about class and sexuality in Woolf and her milieu. Her works move from considering dogs as representative instruments of class and gender in Mrs. Dalloway, to thinking more complexly about the dog/human boundary in Orlando. Human-to-animal ontologies are an evaluation of human biopolitical affiliations, where human social categories and function are embedded and reflected in canine behavior. The “anthropological machine” and the fabulated nature of the human world is exposed in contact zones associated with problems of sexuality, class, and gender, as these internal and external distinctions are able to evade human social typologies, especially in relation to the political and cultural metamorphosis of the interwar period. By identifying how canine signifiers operate, human-making ontologies are better understood. Animality is not an earmark of the “other,” rather it is more often revealed when compulsions of the State are at work on unstable human categories. Woolf uses animals (specifically dogs) because they are a natural proxy to human social structural functionalism. Dogs are fundamentally expressive despite their willingness to please a master; moreover, dogs do not control their desires or physicality as that is generally imposed upon them. Animal selfhood is not easily discoverable or evident, and is thus punished or ignored; they are queered by the perpetually human-driven insistence that they unnaturally accommodate a world exploited by human interest. In Mrs. Dalloway and Orlando, animality is foregrounded where the boundaries between human and animal collapse, and it is under this weight of censorship-by-way-of-animal where nonhuman taxonomies interpolate and correspond with human social hierarchies.
Combs, Allison Castle, "How the soul slips in: Virginia Woolf's (un)natural history of dogs" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1181.