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Posthuman Spaces of Relation: Literary Responses to the Species Boundary in Primate Literature

Diana Villanueva Romero


This article aims at showing how contemporary literary responses to human-nonhuman primate relationships can be as valid a form of thinking about the animal as the philosophical and scientific roots of movements such as the Great Ape Project. Traditionally the ape has been the source of stories that question the definition of the human. Since the beginning of the modern animal liberation movement in the 1970s and thanks to the development of scientific fields such as cognitive ethology, primatology, and trans-species psychology, some fiction writers have produced works that develop alternative ways of thinking about the nonhuman primate. In order to understand the transformative power of the literary imagination this article first offers a short reflection on the connections between the posthuman turn and the development of literary animal studies. Secondly, after commenting on the main narratives that have nourished our relationship with nonhuman apes since the eighteenth century, it presents an overview of the main ape motifs that populate Anglophone literatures. And finally, it argues that literature compels us to transcend the category “human” and enter into a posthuman age that philosophers such as Cary Wolfe or Rosi Braidotti acknowledge as more in tune with the reality of who we are as a species: multiply hybridized in our constant interactions with nonhuman beings.


primate literature; literary animal studies; posthumanism; posthuman humanities; cyborg posthumanism; animot posthumanism; animal ethics; species boundary; animal liberation; ecocriticism

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

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