Our next meeting: May 12th

Oh no, we only have two more meetings scheduled for this academic year! The first of these will take place on Monday May 12thfrom 6.30 – 8 pm in room S2.39 at King’s College London. You are all invited to join us for two very different but hopefully equally interesting papers:

Karen Graham (PhD student, University of Aberdeen) – ‘“The eye is always caught by light, but shadows have more to say”: Reflections of the Non/Human in Gregory Maguire’s Mirror Mirror’

Abstract: There remains in popular culture a persistent appetite for adaptation, something particularly evident in the various retellings of fairy tales in literature and film. While the market is, it seems, saturated with these retellings, a change in the perspective of the original tale is evident in the most successful stories. These innovative retellings re-position the antagonist from marginalised other to the main focus of the narrative. It is a vital component of this new form of fairy tale in which the appeal is not aspiring to beautiful, demure perfection as in the Disney adaptations, but the identification of the audience with the ostracised individual who is not accepted by society. At the centre of these narratives lies the questions of what it is to be human, or what it is to be a person and how the two are not always necessarily one and the same thing. Drawing on the existing framework in fantasy, myth and fairy tale, author Gregory Maguire expands on such common tropes as talking animals to highlight the blurring of these boundaries between the human and the non-human to draw our attention to the insubstantiality of these categories. While this aspect of both Maguire’s Wicked series of novels and the Broadway musical inspired by them has been well discussed, his other works based on more traditionally canonical fairy tales have hitherto been largely overlooked in critical discourse. This paper proposes to begin to redress this imbalance by examining the non/human in Mirror Mirror, Maguire’s re-envisioning of Snow White. It will pay particular attention to the intertextual practices used by Maguire in the reforming of the familiar, both in terms of the narrative and the construction of the human within it.

John A W Lock – ‘The Dark Side of the Park: How Deer see People’

Abstract: Today Richmond Park is a National Nature Reserve and has many other environmental designations to its name. Historically it was a hunting ground and subsequently a finishing ground for fallow deer destined for the beneficiaries of the Crown’s Venison List. The deer were regarded as little more than carcasses-in-waiting, differentiated only by age and sex. This ‘establishment’ view of  the deer has only changed insofar as the animals are now regarded as a ‘resource’ to be ‘managed’ and harvested ‘scientifically’ through culling, achieved using formulaic strategies devised in Nazi Germany for the ‘final solution’. Casual visitors to the park see the deer rather differently, in terms of their cuteness (‘the Bambi factor’) while animal rights activists get very upset about the culling. I promote another view of the fallow deer in the park which sees them as a complex social network containing many de facto sophisticated social structures, essential for the successful conception, birth and rearing of young deer and for the education of the young bucks. This social order has much in common with many traditional or pre-modern human societies. I then turn my attention to how the deer see things – how they perceive themselves and the park, and in particular how they view and tolerate the people who daily invade their domain and how these views vary according to the demography of the deer. In short the piece examines the position of  the Richmond Park deer as an ethnic minority within a larger population. It looks at the resilience of an alien culture to the pressures of diaspora, integration, internment, population control and concepts of difference and race. It seeks to demonstrate that the deer in Richmond Park are as cosmopolitan as any of the other inhabitants of the metropolis.

We look forward to seeing you on May 12th!


About beingnonhuman

Being Non/Human is an interdisciplinary discussion group aimed at postgraduates and early career researchers. The group was set up and is run by Sophia Wilson and Lydia Zeldenrust. Our group is funded by the English departments of King’s College London and Queen Mary, University of London. View all posts by beingnonhuman

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