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Animal WritingStorytelling, Selfhood and the Limits of Empathy$
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Danielle Sands

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474439039

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474439039.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 25 June 2021

The Sexual Politics of Nature Writing and Lepidoptery: ‘The siren song of entomology’

The Sexual Politics of Nature Writing and Lepidoptery: ‘The siren song of entomology’

(p.126) 4. The Sexual Politics of Nature Writing and Lepidoptery: ‘The siren song of entomology’
Animal Writing

Danielle Sands

Edinburgh University Press

Arguing that the discourse of insect collecting is one of objectification and domination, and that entomological classification and practices continue to reflect concerns about sex and gender which were present in its eighteenth- and nineteenth-century instantiations, this chapter aligns the objectification of women with that of insects. It interrogates the notion of aesthetic disinterestedness as licence for such objectification, asking whether aesthetic disinterestedness permits an empathetic disengagement which, at its worst, leads to a sociopathic lack of ethical awareness. The chapter has three parts, focusing on John Fowles’s The Collector, insects (particularly butterflies and moths) in contemporary nature writing and, finally, the role of lepidoptery in the fiction of Vladimir Nabokov. The closing section examines the relationship between ethics and aesthetics, appealing to the simultaneous necessity of both cross-species empathetic engagement and of a distancing that is alert to its own subjective positioning.

Keywords:   Nature writing, Lepidoptery, Insects, Vladimir Nabokov, Sexual politics, John Fowles, Ethics, Empathy

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