CFP: Animal Doubles in Literature and Film (2019 MMLA, Chicago, IL)

deadline for submissions: 
April 5, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Margaret Day/Midwest Modern Languages Association


Call for Papers: “Animals in Literature and Film” (Permanent Panel)
Midwest Modern Languages Association
November 13–17, 2019 in Chicago, IL

“How can an animal look you in the face? Animal Doubles in Literature and Film”

This year's "Animals in Literature and Film" panel at the Midwest Modern Languages Association's annual meeting (November 13–17, 2019 in Chicago, IL) invites papers engaging the conference’s theme of “Doubles, Duality, and Doppelgangers,” specifically how works of literature or film reflect or confound perceived differences between human and non-human animals.

Discussing his cat, Jacques Derrida asks in “The animal that therefore I am,” “How can an animal look you in the face?”[1] He goes on to consider the philosophical and moral issues in the word “animal,” as a word imposed on others by human beings. In response, Donna Haraway criticizes Derrida for not “seriously consider[ing] an alternative form of engagement ... one that risked knowing something more about cats and how to look back, perhaps even scientifically, biologically, and therefore also philosophically and intimately.”[2] Haraway’s comment points to the continued privileging of the human over the animal, even in philosophical discourse that positions humans alongside animals.

Art often explores this privileging at the same time it questions or exploits it. The narrator of Daphne du Maurier’s “Blue Lenses” wakes up after surgery only to see that everyone—every human—has suddenly turned into an animal.[3] When she reluctantly looks at herself in the mirror, she realizes that she too was an animal all along. What happens when we look in the mirror and see an animal staring back at us? This panel will examine the parallels and similarities between humans and animals in literature and film. Potential topics include but are not limited to:

• The use of animal similes and metaphors and their symbolism
• The transformation (complete or incomplete) of humans into animals or animals into humans
• When animals speak to humans or each other and the language of their discourse
• Hybrids and chimaeras as uncomfortable doubles
• The ethics of cloning and the use of clones for non-human purposes (e.g., organ harvesting)
• Human-animal genetic experimentation in science and speculative fiction
• Animal familiars in folklore; animal brides/grooms in fairy tales; animal companions in animation
• Species dysphoria as a metaphor for gender dysphoria and the trans experience
• Animal narratives that mirror human stories (The Wind in the Willows, Redwall)
• Animals as substitutes for children in children’s and YA fiction and film

We invite submissions from all fields that engage in this topic from a literary, cinematic, or art historical angle both in our own cultural moment and beyond it. While we welcome submissions that engage in all languages and literatures, please plan to deliver your paper in English.

Abstracts of no more than 300 words (excluding bibliography) should be sent to Margaret Day ( by April 5th. Please include your name, institutional affiliation, the title of your paper, and any special audio-visual needs in the body of your email.


[1] Derrida, Jaques. “The animal that therefore I am.” Critical Inquiry 28 (2002): 369–418, 377.
[2] Haraway, Donna. When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006, 20.
[3] Du Maurier, Daphne. “The Blue Lenses.” In The Breaking Point. New York: Doubleday, 1959.