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The Owl, the Goldfish and the Bull: The Question of the Animal and Romantic Poetry

By Hui Zhang

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This article argues that the representation of animals in Romantic poetry contributes to the contemporary philosophical and ethical discussion of the question of animals by providing a literary expression of the latter. Conversely, reading depictions of animals in Romantic poetry with their philosophical implications in mind throws light on the oppositions between different human groups, such as between Orientals and Occidentals, or between males and females, in Romantic poetry. These categories connect with each other in different ways in the works of three prominent Romantic poets: William Wordsworth, Lord Byron and Alexander Pushkin. Animals in their poetry reflect their views of various entities falling under the category of the self and that of the other; and indicate the relationships of these entities with such concepts as language, difference, passivity and subjectivity. These concepts find their formulations in the contemporary philosopher Jacques Derrida’s writing on the question of the animals. My analysis will focus on three poems: Wordsworth’s “There was a Boy”, Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” and Pushkin’s “The Fountain of Bakhchisaray.”. It will offer a reading of them side by side with Derrida’s essay “And Say the Animal Responded”.


Katie Osborn

Date 2017
Publication Title Between The Species
Volume 20
Issue 1
ISBN/ISSN 1945-8487
Publisher Philosophy Department and Digital Commons at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
Location of Publication San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals
  2. Animals in culture
  3. Philosophy
  4. Poetry.