“Constituents of a Chaos”: Whale Bodies and the Zoopoetics of Moby-Dick

  • Michaela Castellanos
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature book series (PSAAL)


This chapter approaches Moby-Dick as a zoopoetic text that achieves “innovative breakthroughs in form through an attentiveness to another species’ bodily poiesis” [Moe 10]. Attentive to the whale body, a “problematic organism” that could not be unambiguously classified [Burnett, 190], Castellanos argues, the novel probes the contingencies of the categories human and animal through the narrator’s language. The chapter situates whales in the cultural and historical context of early nineteenth-century America and shows that literary animals make specific contributions to literature’s cultural work. Moby-Dick negotiates the anxieties about racialized bodies that pervaded American culture in the first half of the nineteenth century, which are inextricable from anxieties about how nonhuman bodies should be interpreted.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michaela Castellanos
    • 1
  1. 1.Mid Sweden UniversitySundsvallSweden

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