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Humanities 2017, 6(1), 6; doi:10.3390/h6010006

Unreliability and the Animal Narrator in Richard Adams’s The Plague Dogs

Institute of English and American Studies, University of Osnabrück, 49074 Osnabrück, Germany
Academic Editor: Joela Jacobs
Received: 20 December 2016 / Revised: 13 February 2017 / Accepted: 6 March 2017 / Published: 8 March 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Narratology)
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Abstract

Richard Adams’s talking animal story The Plague Dogs (1978), with its deeply genre-atypical mode of narration, offers a multiplicity of avenues to explore the literary animal as animal. The story draws much of its power from the psychological complexity and related unreliability of both canine narrators, two research lab escapees gone feral. Both the terrier Snitter and the black mongrel Rowf are mentally ill and experience a highly subjective, part-fantastic world. In episodes of zero focalization, a sarcastic voice comments on the plot from the off, aggressively attacking a thoroughly anthropocentric superstructure the protagonists themselves are oblivious of, and presenting all that is normally constructed as “rational” in the implied reader’s world as a carnivalesque farce. Combining these equally unreliable narratives, The Plague Dogs creates a unique mixture of what Phelan (2007) calls “estranging” and “bonding” unreliability and brings to light the devastating consequences of anthropocentrism. The Plague Dogs not only defamiliarizes a genre usually committed to conventional means of storytelling, but the dominant Western conception of the status of animals in the world, showing that once we start to read the animal as animal, this sets into motion an avalanche of other concepts in need of re-reading, among them the very ones making up the fundamental pillars of Western societies’ anthropocentric self-conception. View Full-Text
Keywords: The Plague Dogs; Richard Adams; narratology; anthropocentrism; unreliability; talking animal stories; discourse analysis; non-human focalizer; Pincher Martin The Plague Dogs; Richard Adams; narratology; anthropocentrism; unreliability; talking animal stories; discourse analysis; non-human focalizer; Pincher Martin
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Höing, A. Unreliability and the Animal Narrator in Richard Adams’s The Plague Dogs. Humanities 2017, 6, 6.

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