This paper considers Carol Adams’ notion of the absent referent in Marian Engel’s Bear and J. M. Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals. I argue that both texts call for altered notions of reading and criticism that treat animals as presences but also contend with the difficulty of representing animals. Engel and Coetzee use different techniques to point to the impossibility of textual presence, in Adams’ sense, while also stressing the necessity of striving for a form of presence that represents animals beyond the logic of the absent referent.


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