From Human to Fox: Transformative Border-Crossing in Sjòn’s The Blue Fox and David Garnett’s Lady Into Fox.
To tease out the intersections of animal, disability and identity in my Major Research Paper (MRP), I propose to juxtapose British author David Garnett’s modernist novel Lady Into Fox (1922) Sjòn’s The Blue Fox. Even though separated by time and culture, Garnett’s story draws similar parallels between fox transformation and cultural attitudes towards marginalized groups of people. In the story, Mrs. Tebrick turns into a vixen suddenly one day while out for a walk and her husband must then do his best to care for her; however, her new state renders communication increasingly more difficult, and ultimately Mrs. Tebrick escapes from her home and lives out her life in nature. In one integral scene, Mr. Tebrick attempts to mimic his vixen wife; a moment of attempted becoming that ultimately fails. In my MRP I propose to examine Garnett’s story through a lens of gender and disability politics, comparing the relation between women and foxes in his text with Sjòn’s and contrasting the moment when Mr. Tebrick imitates his wife with Baldur Skuggason’s bodily transformation into a fox. Both narratives, I propose, provide a critique of cultural attitudes towards non-normative physicality and behaviour; both texts were written at times of major cultural shifts in attitudes towards people with disabilities. Employing Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of becoming-animal as a theoretical framework, I will interrogate the socio-political causations and motivations behind these narratives of becoming. Primarily, I will focus on the process of “major-itarian” becoming “minoritarian” as it relates to disability and gender in Icelandic literary history and The Blue Fox and Lady Into Fox; I will also focus on their concept that “all becomings are molecular” in order to examine the process of human-becoming-fox as a means of liberation from oppressive structurally-informed identities. Thus, I will discuss how the portrayal of human-into-fox transformations in The Blue Fox and Lady Into Fox respond to turns in cultural attitudes towards into-fox marginalized groups of people, depicting the transformation as a liberating process that enables characters to move between borders of normative “civilization” and “nature.”
Border-crossing; Animal studies; Identity; Non-normative Physicality; Icelandic Literature; Comparative Literature.
Dr. Irene Gammel; Second reader: Dr. Dennis Denisoff.