It's a dog's life : human to animal transformation in UK YA writing

Browne, Nicola Matthews (2016) It's a dog's life : human to animal transformation in UK YA writing. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Contemporary British children's writers use animal to human transformations to explore human nature and the place of human beings within the universe. Transformation usually fulfills one of six narrative functions. It can be a means of punishment, escape or education, an opportunity for play or as a kind of superpower; sometimes the transformation occurs because the story is a reworking of a myth. This paper concentrates on punishment and escape narratives. Although the means by which transformation occurs varies between texts, almost all present the animal state as being less satisfactory than the human state. In punishment texts the loss of language and agency, which accompanies a change of form, is seen as a degradation of human nature. In escape narratives the metamorph often chooses to escape into wordlessness. In these stories the loss of human language may be replaces by the acquisition and appreciation of more profound means of communication with animals, nature or other beings. The more fully animal the metamorph becomes, the less his or her experience can be expressed in words, and the more likely it is that the metamorph's own voce will not be heard in the text. The texts which deal with the 'otherness' of transformation most effectively, often render the metamorph silent: to become non-human is to move to a state for which language is no longer adequate.

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