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Environment and Fiction

Critical Readings

Edited By Özden Sözalan and Inci Bilgin Tekin

The essays in this volume engage with questions concerning the relationships between fictional texts and environmental issues in their various articulations, and offer critical readings that display the theoretical diversity in the current reconsiderations of the place of human in relation to nature and the environment. Written by scholars working in separate yet closely related disciplines in the field of humanities, the essays present analyses of literary and cultural texts, performed with the critical tools provided by studies in ecology, ecofeminism, urban studies, posthumanism and animal studies as well as genre-specific approaches.

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The Precarious Lives of Cats in Doris Lessing’s On Cats (Canan Şavkay)

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Canan Şavkay

Lessing’s On Cats, first published in 1983, describes the writer’s personal experience with a variety of cats, some her own, some stray, over a long span of time. The book as a whole emphasizes the precarious position cats occupy as companion animals, because as such, they are positioned between the human world and nature. This in-between position renders them extremely vulnerable, as it makes them not only physically, but also emotionally dependent on humans. The book’s focal point is exclusively cats and their precarious position, so much so that the whole human world recedes into the background. The details of the cats’ lives, such as their rivalries, preferences, matings, births and their maternal relation to their kittens reveal the narrator’s profound love and admiration for these feline companions, yet one of the major emotions the book also evokes and that stands out is the narrator’s sense of guilt towards cats. Not a personal guilt, but a general guilt that calls the reader up to a sense of responsibility. As the narrator states, “Knowing cats, a lifetime of cats, what is left is a sediment of sorrow quite different from that due to humans: compounded of pain for their helplessness, of guilt on behalf of us all” (215).

The narrator’s sense of guilt evokes a profound feeling of compassion, making her adopt a non-anthropocentric point of view and focus on the lives of cats. Together with this non-anthropocentric perspective, the narrator at the same time...

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