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Disembodied Animal (Matthew Shedd)

November 8, 2009

I realize this post is a bit ahead of the class conversation, but I wanted to publish these thoughts now while I still had them. When reading Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People, I was interested in the narrator’s synecdochal use of “eyes” to reference the reader. The reader is not an actual person to Animal, but disembodied eyes looking at him, examining his story. We, as readers, are not full human beings that he encounters.

This brought my thoughts back to Katherine Hayles’s, How We Became Posthuman. Hayles, a noted theorist in the field of posthuman studies, describes the process of the liberal humanist idea of the mind being more important than the body going even further toward the belief that the body is not even necessary. 

The narrator plays with this idea in Animal’s People. The readers are not real people with bodies, just sets of eyes reading words about his body.  It is ironic on another level that he uses “eyes” to describe the reader despite our inability to see him. In this way, the novel also highlights the disembodied nature of reading. Our experience of Animal’s story would be much different if his body was in front of ours and we could see each other. Even as a film, his use of the word “eyes” would ring more sincere because we would be able to see his suffering.  However, because he is disembodied in this format, every time he calls the reader “eyes” we cannot but feel his bitter irony pointing out that we cannot understand his suffering because we cannot see his body.

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