Article Expert: Michael Lundblad, from The Birth of a Jungle

Article Expert: Curtis Harty

Michael Lundblad, from The Birth of a Jungle

Quotes:

  • “Why do readings of The Call of the Wild (1903) and White Fang (1906) tend to choose between either an emphasis on human sexual allegory dressed up as animal representation or an assertion of ‘realistic’ animal stories devoid of interspecies sexuality?” (49).
  • “Must representations of animals primarily signify sexual possibilities between members of the same species?” (62).
  • “As heterosexuality becomes naturalized among human beings in the discourse of the jungle, the possibility of deriving pleasure from interspecies contact becomes even more taboo as well” (62).
  • “…From an animality studies perspective, how might interspecies pleasure relate to better ways of thinking about relationships between human and nonhuman animals?” (63).
  • Certainly one way to read these works is to look through such dog or half-wolf characters as Buck and White Fang and to see homoerotic energy directed toward them as a displacement of sexual desire” (63)
  • “It would be tempting to read London’s nonhuman characters simply as cross-dressed human beings, a form of ‘cross-species drag’ in terms of representation” (65).
  • “What we have in London’s dog/wolf stories…is a different step toward human constructions of ‘the animal,’ here with the narratives we might project onto creatures running on four legs rather than two. I do not mean to argue that Buck and White Fang are ‘real’ animals and therefore somehow legible to human beings outside of the epistemology of the jungle. Rather, I want to consider what happens when questions of sexuality are raised in conjunction with questions of ‘real’ animals in London’s written texts” (65).
  • “The ‘communion’ between a human male and a nonhuman male that London’s stories thus evoke is much more interesting to me that humans in animal drag or animals represented ‘realistically,’…what are the limitations of assuming that animal representation can only construct intrahuman sexualities?” (66).
  • “I want to suggest that a whole range of erotic pleasures and behavior between humans and animals are possible…despite the reductiveness of the only available signifier: ‘bestiality’” (67).
  • “Could ‘queer’ be invoked here without simultaneously evoking the deeply problematic logic that links homosexuality with bestiality in order to condemn both as ‘unnatural’?” (68).
  • “To think of the relationships between Buck and John Thornton…as mutual folding ultimately allows us to see how these texts can model alternative possibilities that resist the discourse of the jungle” (71).
  • “My own interest in interspecies sexualities can similarly open the door to new inquiries, without assuming that nonhuman animals, on the one hand, are incapable of feeling love and pleasure, or that human beings, on the other hand, must be engaged in bestiality if there is any erotic element in their interactions with other species” (73).
  • “Prior to the naturalization of interspecies heterosexuality as ‘anima instinct,’ the nature of the beast in writers such as Kipling, James, and London suggests complicated, interesting, and potentially productive alternatives to assumptions about biologically determined sexuality in both human and nonhuman animals” (74).

My Take: Lundblad is making the assertion that the conversation around animal and human relationships in these works is more complex than animals as representations of humans or “real” animals (with the implication of bestiality therefore being assumed). He does not really give an answer as to what that conversation should be, just that shouldn’t be based on Darwinian biological determinism or “animal instinct.”

Questions:

If we look at the relationship of Buck and John Thornton as something other than the product of biological determinism, how might we describe their relationship?

How is there relationship different than or similar to other human to human relationships that we have seen so far? Does it matter to their relationship that Buck is a dog or even a male dog, and if so, how? What could their relationship or “communion” (as Lundblad states) signify beyond animal as human representation or “realistic” animal representation?

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