Rewriting History: Animality in J.M. Coetzee's Dusklands and Richard Flanagan's Wanting


  • Brian Daniel Deyo Grand Valley State University


affect, animality, anthropocentrism, ecophobia, settler colonialism


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 its 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. Inasmuch as they rewrite history, imaginatively recuperate the value of indigenous sensibilities, and positively reinscribe human animality, this essay proposes that Coetzee and Flanagan attempt to resituate the human ecologically.

Author Biography

Brian Daniel Deyo, Grand Valley State University

Brian Deyo is an assistant professor in the Department of English at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. He received a B.A. in Zoology at Miami University (OH) and a Ph.D. in English at Vanderbilt University. His research is broadly interested in the intersections among representations of race, gender, species, and the environment in postcolonial literatures. Deyo is currently working on a book that examines contemporary fictional reconstructions of colonial encounters in South Africa and Australia. He teaches courses in critical theory, postcolonialism, nature writing, and British literature.