Ethics and the semiogenic construction of other animals: cetology and crustaceology in Moby-Dick and "Consider the Lobster"

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Kasprzycki, Eva
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This thesis brings together a ten-page essay on lobsters and a 700-page book on whales to scrutinize the semiogenic construction of creatures floating in the political animal menagerie. Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick and David Foster Wallace’s essay “Consider the Lobster” are texts that are fundamentally concerned with the ethical stakes of textual and historical representations of cetaceans and crustaceans. Both these works explore the intersection between the unknowability of nonhuman animal subjectivity and the industrial rendering of nonhuman animal bodies —an intersection paved and maintained by biopolitical agents that emphasize the former so that the latter can occur without criticism. Despite being published 154 years apart, both these works use the New England coastline to portray industries of death and devouring, both of which are centres of epistemological ambiguity for Wallace and Melville. By theoretically unpacking the political, cultural and historical portrayal of crustaceans and cetaceans in these two literary works, this thesis pursues some of the intra-active networks —in particular those of speciesist ideology— that encase and weave together the industrialized biocapital of nonhuman bodies to the aesthetic representation of them.
Animal ethics, Moral dissonance, Environmental humanities