All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Rebecca Bach

Advisory Committee Members

Daniel Siegel

Vanessa Bentley

Kyle Grimes

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2020

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books are some of the most well-known stories about nonhuman animals from the Victorian period, but rarely have scholars discussed this text without privileging the Mowgli stories or Kipling’s well-known colonialist alignments. In this thesis, I have challenged this scholarly tendency, showing how Kipling has paid careful attention to his nonhuman characters and given them characteristics that model the most current scientific information available at the time. My thesis argues that two of Kipling’s stories in particular, “The White Seal” and “Quiquern,” challenge the notion of human exceptionalism and force readers to confront the unsettling parallels between a community of seals and a community of human beings. Thirty-five years prior to Kipling’s publication of these stories, Charles Darwin published his findings about human evolution that caused a tremendous amount of upset within the western world. Donna Haraway, paraphrasing Freud, acknowledges that this is one of the wounds of humanity because it negates the idea of human exceptionalism: “The second wound is Darwinian, which put Homo sapiens firmly in the world of other critters, all trying to make an earthly living and so evolving in relation to one another without the sureties of directional signposts that culminate in Man” (When Species Meet 11). This idea that humans have been inevitably thrust into the realm of the nonhuman is one that I argue is clearly present in both “The White Seal” and “Quiquern.” Kipling’s attention to the animals in these stories demonstrates an interest in the lives and situations of both human and nonhuman creatures as material beings with significant experiences, fears, and anxieties, and as these stories unfold, it seems that they are asking their readers to seriously think about how human and nonhuman entities ought to live with and interact with one another.

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