Beyond Literary Landscapes—Anthropomorphism

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


Those interested in an introduction to literary anthropomorphism —or simply depictions of animals in literature —a reminder of some genre classics, and as an inspiration for further reading, may choose to begin with the works of Mikhail Bulgakov, Herman Melville, George Orwell, Manuel Puig, and Richard Adams.


This week’s column is a little different, since it does not cover a genre or author, per se, but more of a literary device.  In particular, anthropomorphism in literature can be defined as “a literary device that assigns human characteristics to nonhuman entities like animals or inanimate objects.”  (Note that this is different from personification, which “is the use of figurative language to give inanimate objects or natural phenomena humanlike characteristics in a metaphorical and representative way.”)

Some well-known works include Mikhail Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog and The Master and Margarita, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman, Richard Adams’ Watership Down.

In many of the above-mentioned novels, animals play a central role, as either heroes or foes, and include Bulgakov’s dog in Heart of a Dog; cat in The Master and Margarita; Melville’s whale, Orwell’s pigs, dogs, and horses; Puig’s jaguar; and Adams’ rabbits.


Many of these works take place in the eastern United States, including New Bedford and Nantucket, various oceans, England, including southern England; and the former Soviet Union.


These works mainly take place in the mid-19th to 20th-centuries.


While on the surface, these texts introduce to readers to various anthropomorphological depictions of dogs, cats, pigs, rabbits, leopards, whales, these works are often quite allegorical, satirical, and/or political, with complex themes and topics, such as dystopias, incarceration, revolution, oppression, socialism, the former USSR, as well as the battle of good and evil.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to literary techniques are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works. (Always check with a counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may consider writing their own creative works in ENGL 381: Creative Writing in Prose, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “is your work and its development.”  (Before registering, note that “[s]tudents are expected to have a sound background in literature and proven essay-writing ability.” Happy reading!

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