Non-human primates in J. M. Coetzee’s works featuring Elizabeth Costello

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Lucilla Spini


John Maxwell Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003, is well-known for his references to animals in his fiction, and for his active engagement against cruelty enacted on animals. This inclination is particularly visible in those works featuring the character, Elizabeth Costello, the fictional Australian writer who is also a strong and well-known advocate against cruelties on animals. Many studies have been conducted on Coetzee’s animals, from different perspectives from anthropological, philosophical and ecological, but less attention has been placed on focusing on the roles of particular species, or groups of species, described in his works (with few exceptions mostly on dogs). Hence, this paper aims at furthering the understanding of the role of non-human primates referenced in Coetzee’s fiction, from bio-anthropological and ecological perspectives. In particular, it addresses Coetzee’s fiction featuring Elizabeth Costello, namely, The Lives of Animals (1999), Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons (2003), Slow Man (2005), and Moral Tales (2017). By accounting and analyzing non-human primates (mostly great apes) and their settings (mostly anthropized), the research concludes that Coetzee exhibits a scientific knowledge of non-human primates and related ethical and conservation issues which allows him to contribute to the scientific debate on the place of human beings in nature.

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How to Cite
Spini, L. (2020). Non-human primates in J. M. Coetzee’s works featuring Elizabeth Costello. Human Evolution , 35(3-4), 211-225.
Author Biography

Lucilla Spini, Linacre College (Oxford)

Spini L. 
Biological Anthropologist and Sustainability Scientist
Old Member, Linacre College (Oxford)