Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Degree Granting Department
John Lennon, Ph.D.
Ylce Irizarry, Ph.D.
Gurleen Grewal, Ph.D.
Quynh N. Le, Ph.D.
critical animal studies, ecocriticism, slaughterhouses, human-animal relationship
This dissertation explores how literary representations of the slaughterhouse predict the trajectory of human greed that is fueled by capitalist economic practices that shape environmental policies. I argue that literature brings attention to what is generally hidden from public view: the way humans and animals are erased in the production of food, which includes the inhumane treatment of humans and other animals in the slaughterhouse. The literature in this dissertation provides an avenue through which we can investigate the entangled oppression of humans and other animals in an effort to challenge perceptions that reduce animals, and marginalized humans, to objects. Thus, my dissertation contributes to a growing scholarship that contests the dichotomous relationship between humans and nonhumans in order to expose the culture of violence often ignored in the production and consumption of meat processed in industrial slaughterhouses.
The strained relationship between humans and nonhumans in meat production is explored in this dissertation by tracking literary representations of slaughterhouses in four novels: Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906), Tillie Olsen’s Yonnondio: From the Thirties (1974), Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003), and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004). The novels invite readers into the slaughterhouse by way of four different literary genres: historical fiction, proletarian fiction, speculative fiction, and dystopian fiction. I trace the industry’s development and impact as represented in these narratives by categorizing the slaughterhouse in three ways: as a physical place of violence, a psychological space of suffering, and as metaphor. Each novel contributes to part of a larger narrative that traces the advancement of industrialized slaughter production to its grossest manifestation.
Examining the novels in the order in which they were published reveals a bleak trajectory of the industrial food complex. The development of industrial slaughterhouse production represented in Sinclair’s and Olsen’s novels in the early twentieth century sets the stage for various possibilities of advanced types of slaughter put forth by Atwood and Mitchell. Through the use of slaughterhouse imagery, these novels unveil the ways in which humans and other animals are reduced to capital. This exploration shows the detrimental effects that slaughter production has on the global ecosystem.
Scholar Commons Citation
Lance, Stephanie, ""The weak are meat, and the strong do eat"; Representations of the Slaughterhouse in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature" (2019). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.