Paolo Bugliani

Modern(ist) fables. Notes on Some Animals Inhabiting Early 20th-century Short Stories

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Keywords: human/animal relations, short story, fable, Modernism, Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, Mary Butts.

This essay addresses the literary representation of animals in short fiction by Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, and Mary Butts. Its aim is to highlight how, by constituting a marginal literary space, the short story as a genre allowed these writers to reconfigure the encounter with the animal with a distinctive formal liberty, conjoining the heightened symbolic power of the literary animal with a lively rethinking of traditional models, most notably myth and fable. The short story, and in particular the short story featuring an encounter with an animal, is thus a privileged site of investigation as it conflates marginalised forces that, yoked together, illuminate many facets of the question regarding the animal during Modernism. It also sheds light on women writers’ employment of this genre as a space for expressive freedom.

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