Where "Beasts' Spirits Wail": Rosenberg, Sassoon, and the Emergence of Animal Philosophy
Drawing on Derrida, Levinas, and others, critics such as Christina Gerhardt and Karalyn Kendall Morwick have pointed out that Modernism witnessed a breakdown in the traditional animal-human divide. Yet few critics have asked what role the Great War itself played in unsettling that divide. I argue taht the dehumanizing conditions of the war, coupled with its unprecedented levels of animal and human conscription and slaughter, produced a basic questioning among combatants in Great Britain of what it means to be distinct from other animals and how humans should relate to them. This questioning comes about most acutely in the writings of Isaac Rosenberg and Siegfried Sassoon, two important trench poets, and helps shed light on their particular notions of the pastoral, along with the war's broader role in recsting the identities of humans. Although neither poet explicitly endorses a vision of what we would later call "animal rights," their sense of a primordial linkage between beings and shared sense of suffering with them would presage later currents in animal philosophy, including the "face-to-face" ethics of Levinas.
Otherness: Essays and Studies
Bernstein, J. A.
(2021). Where "Beasts' Spirits Wail": Rosenberg, Sassoon, and the Emergence of Animal Philosophy. Otherness: Essays and Studies, 8(1).
Available at: https://aquila.usm.edu/fac_pubs/19464