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Death and Compassion

The Elephant in Southern African Literature

Dan Wylie (author)

ISBN: 9781776142187

Publication Date: Nov 2018

Format: Paperback

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.
£30.50

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  • Author Biography
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Examines what literature reveals about human attitudes towards elephants and who shows compassion towards them.

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.

Death and Compassion is the first study to probe various literary genres. It examines what these literatures imply about human attitudes towards elephants and who shows compassion towards them. It is the story of a developing contestation between death and compassion, between those who kill and those who love and protect.
Pages 280
Dimensions 229 x 152
Date Published 30 Nov 2018
Publisher Wits University Press
Subject/s Literary studies: general   Literary companions   The natural world, country life & pets   Applied ecology   Animals & society  
  • 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 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 (2002); and several volumes of poetry.

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