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Death and Compassion: The Elephant in Southern African Literature

by Dan Wylie Wits University Press
Pub Date:
10/2018
ISBN:
9781776142187
Format:
Pbk 280 pages
Price:
AU$62.00 NZ$64.35
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
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Elephants are in dire straits – again. They were virtually extirpated from much of Africa by European hunters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but their numbers resurged for a while in the heyday of late-colonial conservation efforts in the twentieth. Now, according to one estimate, an elephant is being killed every fifteen minutes. This is at the same time that the reasons for being especially compassionate and protective towards elephants are now so well-known that they have become almost a cliché: their high intelligence, rich emotional lives including a capacity for mourning, caring matriarchal societal structures, that strangely charismatic grace.


 


Saving elephants is one of the iconic conservation struggles of our time. As a society we must aspire to understand how and why people develop compassion – or fail to do so – and what stories we tell ourselves about animals that reveal the relationship between ourselves and animals.


 


This book is the first study to probe the primary features, and possible effects, of some major literary genres as they pertain to elephants south of the Zambezi over three centuries: indigenous forms, early European travelogues, hunting accounts, novels, game ranger memoirs, scientists’ accounts, and poems. It examines what these literatures imply about the various and diverse attitudes towards elephants, about who shows compassion towards them, in what ways and why. It is the story of a developing contestation between death and compassion, between those who kill and those who love and protect.

Acknowledgements


Introduction Compassion for elephants?


Chapter 1 No simple sort of mirror: Compassion and the pre-colonial


Chapter 2 Experiment and devastation: Travelogue and the advent of zoology


Chapter 3 A most delightful mania: Hunters’ tales


Chapter 4 Not very good at remorse: Elephants in fiction


Chapter 5 A tear rolled down her face: Teen fiction and the elephant mind


Chapter 6 Bosses of the bushveld: Game ranger memoirs


Chapter 7 Repeatedly folded frontier: The ‘field-research memoir’


Chapter 8 The cult of the remnant: The elephants of Knysna and Addo


Chapter 9 The elephant was unhappy: Poetry as compassion


Afterword


Bibliography


Index

Dan Wylie combines a lifetime of experience and meditation with specialist knowledge of debates in ecocriticism and animal studies. — F. Fiona Moolla, Department of English, University of the Western Cape


 


Death and Compassion is an original and highly informative analysis of scientific and nonscientific accounts of elephant ethics and ontology.  Kai Horsthemke, Chair of Philosophy of Education and Systematic Pedagogy, KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany
Dan Wylie is a lecturer in the English Department at Rhodes University, Grahamstown. He has published three books on the Zulu leader Shaka; a memoir, Dead Leaves: Two Years in the Rhodesian War; two books in the Animal Series for Reaktion Books, Elephant and Crocodile, and several volumes of poetry.