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Flocking together : collective animal minds in contemporary fiction

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  • NARMESH (Narrating the Mesh: Ecology and the Non-Human in Contemporary Fiction and Oral Storytelling (NARMESH))
Abstract
The remarkable coordination displayed by animal groups such as an ant colony or a flock of birds in flight is not just a behavioral feat; it reflects a full-fledged form of collective cognition. Building on work in philosophy, cognitive approaches to literature, and animal studies, I explore how contemporary fiction captures animal collectivity. I focus on three novels that probe different aspects of animal assemblages: animals as a collective agent (in Richard Powers's The Echo Maker), animals that communicate a shared mind through dance-like movements (in Lydia Davis's The Cows), and animals that embrace a collective "we" to critique the individualism of contemporary society (in Peter Verhelst's The Man I Became). When individuality drops out of the picture of human-animal encounters in fiction, empathy becomes abstract: a matter of quasi-geometric patterns that are experienced by readers through an embodied mechanism of kinesthetic resonance.
Keywords
LANGUAGE

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Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

MLA
Caracciolo, Marco. “Flocking Together : Collective Animal Minds in Contemporary Fiction.” PMLA-PUBLICATIONS OF THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, vol. 135, no. 2, 2020, pp. 239–53, doi:10.1632/pmla.2020.135.2.239.
APA
Caracciolo, M. (2020). Flocking together : collective animal minds in contemporary fiction. PMLA-PUBLICATIONS OF THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, 135(2), 239–253. https://doi.org/10.1632/pmla.2020.135.2.239
Chicago author-date
Caracciolo, Marco. 2020. “Flocking Together : Collective Animal Minds in Contemporary Fiction.” PMLA-PUBLICATIONS OF THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA 135 (2): 239–53. https://doi.org/10.1632/pmla.2020.135.2.239.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Caracciolo, Marco. 2020. “Flocking Together : Collective Animal Minds in Contemporary Fiction.” PMLA-PUBLICATIONS OF THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA 135 (2): 239–253. doi:10.1632/pmla.2020.135.2.239.
Vancouver
1.
Caracciolo M. Flocking together : collective animal minds in contemporary fiction. PMLA-PUBLICATIONS OF THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA. 2020;135(2):239–53.
IEEE
[1]
M. Caracciolo, “Flocking together : collective animal minds in contemporary fiction,” PMLA-PUBLICATIONS OF THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, vol. 135, no. 2, pp. 239–253, 2020.
@article{8662658,
  abstract     = {{The remarkable coordination displayed by animal groups such as an ant colony or a flock of birds in flight is not just a behavioral feat; it reflects a full-fledged form of collective cognition. Building on work in philosophy, cognitive approaches to literature, and animal studies, I explore how contemporary fiction captures animal collectivity. I focus on three novels that probe different aspects of animal assemblages: animals as a collective agent (in Richard Powers's The Echo Maker), animals that communicate a shared mind through dance-like movements (in Lydia Davis's The Cows), and animals that embrace a collective "we" to critique the individualism of contemporary society (in Peter Verhelst's The Man I Became). When individuality drops out of the picture of human-animal encounters in fiction, empathy becomes abstract: a matter of quasi-geometric patterns that are experienced by readers through an embodied mechanism of kinesthetic resonance.}},
  author       = {{Caracciolo, Marco}},
  issn         = {{0030-8129}},
  journal      = {{PMLA-PUBLICATIONS OF THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA}},
  keywords     = {{LANGUAGE}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  number       = {{2}},
  pages        = {{239--253}},
  title        = {{Flocking together : collective animal minds in contemporary fiction}},
  url          = {{http://dx.doi.org/10.1632/pmla.2020.135.2.239}},
  volume       = {{135}},
  year         = {{2020}},
}

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