Anthrozoogenesis: Disgrace and The Familiar

We discussed the idea anthrozoogenesis in relation to J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace and I couldn’t help but think off how the dogs seemed to change Lurie in this text. After obsessing greatly over this motif, I believe I understand why, it wasn’t the first time I saw it this semester. Astair and Anwar are trying to purchase a seizure dog for Xanther (which of course fails), but I’m less interested in the goal of attaining the dog. Instead, What fascinates me is the behavior of Astair that is changed even when the dog is not in direct presence of their lives. We see Astair purchasing dog toys, an absurd sheepskin bed, and various other accouterments, and the question to deserves to be asked, what is the goal? For Astair, the dog represents a cure of Xanther’s ailiing and locus of nurturing energy that she cannot provide to her child. This isn’t to say that Astair is a bad mother by any stretch, but it would seem that there is a type of human-animal relationship that she is betting on to heal her daughter.

In Disgrace, miserable, ex-prof David Lurie loses everything and ends up working in a euthanasia clinic after he has lost his job, is set on fire, and his daughter is raped (spoiler!). How on earth does this compare to The Familiar? Well, I’m glad you asked. About the only redeeming character trait for David is that he becomes empathetic of animals. His first encounters with the are the goat with the infested nether regions and the sheep bought for slaughter. In these first cases, though, Lurie is not changing his nature, per-say. Instead, these animals are acting as lenses through which to view his complete disgrace, a form of anthropomorphising the animals. When David encounters the euthanasia clinic and has to take the dogs to the incinerator, we see a change in David brought from the agencies of the dogs, completely separate of his own volition. It could be argued that David, a man who usurps whatever he likes, learns what love is from his interaction with these injured and an unwanted dogs, a fascinating insight in how animals can alter a human life.

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