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Reading: Political Animals: Dogs and the Discourse of Rights in Late Eighteenth-Century Print Culture

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Political Animals: Dogs and the Discourse of Rights in Late Eighteenth-Century Print Culture

Author:

Amy Milka

University of Adelaide, AU
About Amy
ARC Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Humanities
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Abstract

This article argues that that during the political upheaval of the 1790s, the discourse of rights was mobilised to discuss the social, legal and political status of animals and humans. Notions of animal rights were just beginning to take shape towards the end of the eighteenth century. Changing beliefs about animal sentience, rationality and feelings, and social and moral concerns about animal cruelty, slowly brought the issue of animal welfare before the public. Historians have been inclined to view animal rights as the logical conclusion of the extension of the ‘rights of man’ down the social scale. This article contends that in print culture, animals were used as cyphers for their human owners. By giving voices to animals and characterising them as politically active and informed, a variety of literary productions demonstrated the methods of social, legal and political resistance available to their readers.
How to Cite: Milka, A., 2020. Political Animals: Dogs and the Discourse of Rights in Late Eighteenth-Century Print Culture. Romantic Textualities: Literature and Print Culture, 1780–1840, (23), pp.237–256. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18573/romtext.81
Published on 30 Aug 2020.
Peer Reviewed

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