Illustrating a new methodology identified as animality studies, The Birth of a Jungle explores animality at the turn of the twentieth century in the U.S.-a moment when shifts in what it meant to be both human and animal produced new ways of thinking about various human behaviors, including homosexuality, labor exploitation, and the lynching of black men. Throughout the study, Michael Lundblad explores what he identifies as the discourse of the jungle: Darwinist-Freudian constructions of human behavior that could be explained by animal instincts that were supposedly naturally violent in the name of survival and heterosexual in the name of reproduction. These new formulations were often contested rather than reinforced, however, in Progressive-Era literary and cultural texts. The Birth of a Jungle ultimately reveals the significance of animality in relation to the history of sexuality, literary naturalism, and critical race studies, while highlighting how the discourse of the jungle remains a disturbing yet powerful presence today.
"This book offers an innovative conceptualization of 'animality' as a historical and theoretical paradigm that reshapes what we thought we knew about human-animal relations in the Progressive Era. The book takes risks as it aims to make important critical interventions [...] It carves out a unique niche for itself by challenging us to consider how 'animality' pushes us past our own current conceptual critical categories for thinking about human-animal bonds."
– Journal of American Studies
The Nature of the Beast in U.S. Culture
Part I: Epistemology of the Jungle
1. Progressive-Era Sexuality and the Nature of the Beast in Henry James
2. Between Species: Queering the Wolf in Jack London
Part II: Survival of the Fittest Market
3. The Octopus and the Corporation:
Monstrous Animality in Norris, Spencer, and Carnegie
4. The Working-Class Beast: Frank Norris and Upton Sinclair
Part III: The Evolution of Race
5. Archaeology of a Humane Society: Animality, Savagery, Blackness
6. Black Savage, White Animal: Tarzan's American Jungle
Animal Legacies: William Jennings Bryan and the Scopes "Monkey Trial"
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Michael Lundblad is Associate Professor of English at the University of Oslo.