Humanity as a Performance in H.G. Wells’s "The Island of Doctor Moreau"
Keywords:Literary criticism, H.G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, Animal queer, Performativity
At first glance, H.G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) seems to question the boundary between humans and animals only to reaffirm its inescapable naturality, as Moreau attempts to turn animals into humans by altering their physiology and his creatures ultimately revert to their original animality. Yet, through the interpretive frame of animal queer and Harvey Sacks’s Membership Categorization Analysis, my paper aims to show how other elements of the text actually counter this perspective, thus suggesting a performative notion of humanity in its opposition to animality. By focusing on the role of the ritual recitation of the Law and on how the narrator’s experience on the island of Doctor Moreau radically affects his views on humanity, I will argue that the novel challenges well-established essentialist conceptions of the human-animal divide and boldly explores the disquieting possibility that humanity is nothing but a performance.
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