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Threatening Animals?

Heather I. Sullivan


Threatening predators and pernicious beasts continue to play significant roles in the human imaginary even as human threats to other species increase exponentially in the age of Anthropocene. While posthumanist animal studies and material ecocriticism sync human and other animals within the biosphere’s living interactions, our shared material reciprocity is currently skewing ever more towards the human threat to other species – and so to ourselves as co-dependents. This essay explores the meaning of “threatening” and “threatened”. Five German texts presenting human-animal interactions in the Anthropocene’s span by Goethe, Kafka, Stifter, Duve, and Trojanow unsettle expectations of threats. In Goethe’s “Novella”, an escaped lion and tiger enter German forests and are subdued, whereas Stifter’s “Brigitta” depicts a pastoral peace threatened by wolves. Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” re-shapes David Abram’s idea of “becoming animal”, and Karen Duve’s “Rain Novel” and Ilija Trojanow’s “Melting Ice”, recent climate change novels, juxtapose the human threat to the world’s climate with the onslaught of endless slugs and a biting penguin. Finally, the resurgence of wild boars in Berlin’s urban space in the past few years renegotiates human, nonhuman, and posthuman boundaries in an urban ecology.


Anthropocene; animals; Plumwood; Goethe; Stifter; Kafka; Duve; Trojanow; climate change; material ecocriticism

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/rela-2016-001-sull

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 - Rod Bennison - Matthew R. Calarco - Piergiorgio Donatelli - William Grove-Fanning - Serenella Iovino - Joel MacClellan - Dario Martinelli - Roberto Marchesini - Alma Massaro - Barbara Muraca - Serpil Oppermann - Simone Pollo - Paola Sobbrio - Kim Stallwood - Sabrina Tonutti - Jessica Ullrich - Federico Zuolo