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Boundary Transgressions: the Human-Animal Chimera in Science Fiction

Evelyn Tsitas


This paper explores how science fiction writers have used human-animal chimera experiments as the inspiration for creating characters that challenge us to consider what is quintessentially human and what is animal. Since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) created a manufactured man from parts of dead animals and humans combined, and H.G. Wells wrote about vivisection used to create the Beast Men in The Island of Dr. Moreau in 1896, animal experimentation has been mirrored in science fiction. Xenotransplantation is used with tragic-comic effect in Mikhail Bulgakov’s long banned 1932 novel A Dog’s Heart, and with pathos in Malorie Blackman’s 1997 children’s novel Pig Heart Boy. Shostakovich’s recently resurrected 1932 satiric opera, Orango, explores the results of doctors inseminating female primates with their own sperm. In Vincenzo Natali’s 2009 transgenic science fiction horror film Splice, Dren – the ultimate chimera – is created by scientists Clive and Elsa splicing multiple animal and human DNA. As Donna Haraway predicted in A Manifesto for Cyborgs (1991), “[b]y the late twentieth century […] nothing really convincingly settles the separation of the human and animal”. In investigating the manufactured human-animal chimera as a cyborg, the literary trope of the mad scientist that emerged with Frankenstein is examined.


Human-animal studies, human-animal chimeras, science fiction, animal experimentation, Donna Haraway, Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Malorie Blackman, Vincenzo Natali, Mikhail Bulgakov

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/rela-2014-002-tsit

Copyright (©) 2018 Evelyn Tsitas – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie

Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (04/05/2012 n. 211)
Online ISSN 2280-9643 - Print ISSN 2283-3196

Executive Editor: Francesco Allegri
Associate Editor: Matteo Andreozzi 
Review Editors: Sofia Bonicalzi - Eleonora Adorni
Editorial Board:
Ralph R. Acampora - Carol J. Adams - Vilma Baricalla - Luisella Battaglia - Rod Bennison - Matthew R. Calarco - Piergiorgio Donatelli - William Grove-Fanning - Serenella Iovino - Luigi Lombardi Vallauri - Christoph Lumer - Joel MacClellan - Dario Martinelli - Roberto Marchesini - Alma Massaro - Serpil Oppermann - Simone Pollo - Paola Sobbrio - Kim Stallwood - Sabrina Tonutti - Jessica Ullrich - Federico Zuolo

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