By way of imaginative engagements with animal life, literature seems ideally positioned to address the gap between scientific knowledge and “what it is like” (in Thomas Nagel’s phrase) to be an animal. Yet my article argues that the differences between literary representations of animal experience and scientific methods for studying nonhuman consciousness should not be overlooked. No matter how plausible they are, literature’s animal phenomenologies play by hermeneutic—not scientific—rules. A 1927 short story by Italo Svevo, “Argo and His Master,” helps me interrogate the power as well as the limitations of literary figurations of nonhuman experience.


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