This essay considers encounters with animals in the work of Henry David Thoreau, Stanley Cavell and J. M. Coetzee. More specifically, it explores what it calls ‘poetic’ engagements with animals – engagements in which our relations with nonhuman others are not cast in appropriative or instrumental terms. Along the way, it draws on the work of the American philosopher Cora Diamond. It also takes inspiration from a famous passage from George Eliot’s Middlemarch, and offers a creaturely, environmental reading of some of the ideas invoked in that novel. What, it asks, might it be like to respond to Eliot’s injunction to treat the lives of others with complete seriousness?
- Centre for Environmental Humanities