This article proposes a reading of Susan Straight’s 2006 novel A Million Nightingales in the light of critical posthumanities, focusing specifically on references to nonhuman animals. It does so in order to place Straight’s writing within the context of the recent posthumanist debate concerning the distinction between human and nonhuman animals (cf. Donna Haraway, Cary Wolfe). I claim that while addressing the “fused” discrimination (after Carol J. Adams) of sexism, racism, and speciesism, Straight’s prose can be seen as a proposition of a reconfigured subjectivity, one based on “entanglement” and “intra-action” (Karen Barad). A Million Nightingales, which – together with Take One Candle Light A Room (2010), and Between Heaven and Here (2012) – forms the Rio Seco trilogy, presents characters who migrate from 19th century Louisiana to California. This setting and a choice of characters allows the author to comment on science (biology and medicine) as it serves a racist agenda, and on the subtle forms of protest and subversion available to those silenced and dismissed by the official discourse who turn to animism and materiality to undermine the discriminatory apparatuses of racism, sexism and speciesism which deems them less-than-human. By re-introducing references to animality presented as a subversive strategy used by the disenfranchised characters, Straight deconstructs racist and anthropocentric notions of subjectivity based on narrowly defined belonging to the human species, which I propose to view as a post-anthropocentric redefinition of subjectivity.
Nowak-McNeice, Katarzyna E
"The Turn toward the Nonhuman in Susan Straight’s A Million Nightingales."
CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture
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