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Hungry Unlike the Wolf: Ecology, Posthumanism, Narratology in Fred Vargas’s Seeking Whom He May Devour

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Abstract:

This paper examines posthumanism as a philosophical position equipped to inform ecocriticism and the potential of popular fiction to articulate ecological complexity. Posthumanism will be reappraised as a dialectical model that decentres the human in relation to ‘evolutionary, ecological, or technological coordinates’ (Wolfe 2010: xvi) while nevertheless retaining a sense of the integrity of, and boundaries between, human and nonhuman species or phenomena. It will be argued that a novelistic emphasis on human being, agency, and action, coupled with devices of genre, plot, atnd narrative – are consistent with the process of human self‐examinaion engendered by posthumanism. The essay will, thereafter, illustrate and examine this approach through the French crime writer Fred Vargas’s1999 novel Seeking Whom He May Devour. Identifying two human protagonists – the Canadian conservationist Johnstone and his girlfriend Camille – an initial decentring of the human subject will be examined in relation to two equivalent, nonhuman protagonists, the French Alps and the wolf. Utilising newspaper interviews that highlight Vargas’s own posthumanist perspective (grounded in her profession as an archaeologist), I will examine a) how the novel explores appropriate relationships between human and nonhuman animals; b) how Vargas utilises both the generic features of the crime novel – e.g. the resolution of a ‘crime’ – and the subtle narrative manipulations of character focalisation to construct (via the preferred ‘point of iew’ offered by Camille) a posthumanist position on human/animal relations which argas explicitly opposes to the inhumanism represented by Johnstone.

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