In engaging with acts of self-narration that cross species lines, creators of animal autobiographies also broach questions about genre, truth status, and the structure as well as the politics of narrative representation. To address these questions, the present article draws not just on scholarship on (animal) autobiography but also on ideas from the fields of linguistic semantics, politeness theory, and discourse analysis, including the “framing and footing” approach that focuses on talk emerging in contexts of face-to-face interaction and that derives most directly from the work of Erving Goffman. On the basis of this research, and using case studies that range from animal riddles to Ceridwen Dovey’s Only the Animals
(2014), a collection of life stories posthumously narrated by a variety of nonhuman tellers, I profile autobiographical acts that reach beyond the human as ways of speaking for or in behalf of animal others. Some animal autobiographies correlate with acts of telling for which humans themselves remain the principals as well as authors; their animal animators remain relegated to the role of commenting on human institutions, values, practices, and artifacts. Other examples, however, can be read as co-authored acts of narrating in behalf of equally hybrid (or “humanimal”) principals. These experiments with narration beyond the human afford solidarity-building projections of other creatures’ ways of being-in-the-world—projections that enable a reassessment, in turn, of forms of human being.
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