- Rewriting History/Animality in J. M. Coetzee’s Dusklands and Richard Flanagan’s Wanting
- ariel: A Review of International English Literature
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 44, Number 4, October 2013
- p. pp. 89-116
- View Citation
This article examines two works of fiction that speculatively rewrite settler histories in South Africa and Australia, J. M. Coetzee’s Dusklands and Richard Flanagan’s Wanting. In the interest of critically addressing the silences, elisions, and ideological simplifications of imperialist histories of the colonial encounter, both texts imaginatively attend to the lived experiences of European settlers and indigenous peoples during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In their respective accounts of the colonial encounter, Coetzee and Flanagan represent how racist, anthropocentric, and ecophobic mentalities are unsettled by affective intensities that instantiate the body’s resistance to the political, economic, social, and religious logics of colonialism. Both authors coordinate the body’s resistance with animality, which in turn is posited as a kind of affective power that has the potential to ethically and aesthetically reconfigure the human-animal binary of Western discourse. This essay proposes that Coetzee and Flanagan attempt to resituate the human ecologically by rewriting history, imaginatively recuperating the value of indigenous sensibilities, and positively reinscribing human animality.