Belonging to This World: On Living Like an Animal in Michel Faber’s Under the Skin

  • Matthew Calarco
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature book series (PSAAL)


Michel Faber’s novel Under the Skin tracks the transformation of the novel’s protagonist, Isserley, as she undergoes a crisis in her self-identity and drifts slowly but in a determined manner toward another way of life. Isserley (who belongs to a highly-intelligent alien species that refers to itself as “human”) works in the voddissin industry, which captures and transforms “vodsels” (the term the aliens use for members of Homo sapiens, who are understood by them to be “mere” animals) into consumable meat. As the novel unfolds, Isserley eventually comes to reject the meat industry and the subjugation of vodsels on which it is based. Here I suggest that Isserly’s subjective transformation is based not on a superficial recognition of logical identity between herself and vodsels, but on a deeper ethic of belonging, which enables her to affirm her shared “animal” condition with vodsels and other earthly beings.

Works Cited

  1. Bataille, Georges. The Accursed Share: An Essay on General Economy, Vol. 3 (Sovereignty). Translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Zone Books, 1991.Google Scholar
  2. Desmond, William. Cynics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.Google Scholar
  3. Dillon, Sarah. “‘It Is a Question of Words, Therefore’: Becoming-Animal in Michel Faber’s Under the Skin.” Science Fiction Studies 38, no. 1 (2011): 134–154.Google Scholar
  4. Dunn, Kristy. “‘Do You Know Where the Light Is?’ Factory Farming and Industrial Slaughter in Michel Faber’s Under the Skin.” In Meat Culture, edited by Annie Potts, 149–162. Leiden: Brill, 2016.Google Scholar
  5. Faber, Michel. Under the Skin. New York: Harcourt, 2000.Google Scholar
  6. Laertius, Diogenes. Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 2 vols. Translated by R. D. Hicks. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1925.Google Scholar
  7. Scholten, Clemens. Theodoret: De Graecarum affectionum curatione. Leiden: Brill, 2015.Google Scholar
  8. Vint, Sherryl. “Skin Deep: Alienation in Under the Skin.” Extrapolation 56, no. 1 (2015): 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Calarco
    • 1
  1. 1.California State UniversityFullertonUSA

Personalised recommendations