Reading the Animal Pulse

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


This chapter examines literary texts that deal with one of the many media that function as an interface between humans and other animals: the stethoscope. I first recapitulate existing work about this medical monitoring device in sound studies and literary studies and about creaturely vulnerability in animal studies, and explain how bodily sounds disclose a form of cross-species fragility left unexplored by other accounts of nonhuman audio. The chapter subsequently shows how two novels featuring specialized knowledge of veterinary procedures hint at the common vulnerability of embodied creatures while leaving the conventional species boundary largely in place. A brief look at the historical archive reveals that Bram Stoker’s Dracula monitors this boundary even more anxiously and encourages its readers to experience its sensational narrative in quasi-physical ways, as if trying to animalize their bodies in ways that nevertheless reassure the novel’s audience. By contrast, Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing and Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis offer less reassuring interpretations of our weird bodies, their creaturely sounds, and the indifferent material universe that envelops us.


  1. Alaimo, Stacy. Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2010. Print.Google Scholar
  2. Arata, Stephen D. “The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization”. Victorian Studies 33.4 (1990): 621–45. Print.Google Scholar
  3. Blair, Kirstie. Victorian Poetry and the Culture of the Heart. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print.Google Scholar
  4. Brilmyer, S. Pearl. “‘The Natural History of My Inward Self’: Sensing Character in George Eliot’s Impressions of Theophrastus Such”. PMLA 129.1 (2014): 35–51. Print.Google Scholar
  5. Cassidy, Angela et al. “Animal Roles and Traces in the History of Medicine, c. 1880–1980”. BJHS Themes 2 (2017): 11–33. Print.Google Scholar
  6. DeLillo, Don. Cosmopolis. London: Picador, 2011 [2003]. Print.Google Scholar
  7. Delville, Michel. “Senses”. Literature Now: Key Terms and Methods for Literary History. Ed. Sascha Bru, Ben De Bruyn, and Michel Delville. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2016. 87–97. Print.Google Scholar
  8. Dijck, José van. The Transparent Body: A Cultural Analysis of Medical Imaging. Seattle: U of Washington P, 2005. Print.Google Scholar
  9. Eliot, George. Middlemarch. London: Penguin, 2012 [1871–2]. Print.Google Scholar
  10. Gustafson, Sid. Swift Dam. Open Books, 2016. Print.Google Scholar
  11. Greve, Julius and Markus Wierschem. “Rugged Resonances: From Music in McCarthy to McCarthian Music”. European Journal of American Studies 12.3 (2017). Web. 14 January 2019.
  12. Grusin, Richard. “Radical Mediation”. Critical Inquiry 42.1 (2015): 124–48. Print.Google Scholar
  13. Halberstam, J. “Technologies of Monstrosity: Bram Stoker’s Dracula”. Victorian Studies 36.3 (1993): 333–52. Print.Google Scholar
  14. Harris, Anna. “Listening-touch, Affect and the Crafting of Medical Bodies through Percussion”. Body & Society 22.1 (2016): 31–61. Print.Google Scholar
  15. Houser, Heather. Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction: Environment and Affect. New York: Columbia UP, 2014. Print.Google Scholar
  16. Hungerford, Amy. Making Literature Now. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2016. Print.Google Scholar
  17. Hungerford, Amy. “The Bible and Illiterature: Bible Criticism, McCarthy and Morrison, Illiterate Readers”. Postmodern Belief: American Literature and Religion Since 1960. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2010. 76–106. Print.Google Scholar
  18. Jones, Cynan. The Dig. London: Granta, 2014. Print.Google Scholar
  19. Jones, David Houston. “All the Moments of Our Lives: Self-Archiving from Christian Boltanski to Lifelogging”. Archives and Records 36.1 (2015): 29–41. Print.Google Scholar
  20. Jones, Susan D. Valuing Animals: Veterinarians and Their Patients in Modern America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2002. Print.Google Scholar
  21. Keenleyside, Heather. “The First-Person Form of Life: Locke, Sterne, and the Autobiographical Animal”. Critical Inquiry 39.1 (2012): 116–41. Print.Google Scholar
  22. Kennedy, Meegan. “Some Body’s Story: The Novel as Instrument”. Novel: A Forum on Fiction 42.3 (2009): 451–9. Print.Google Scholar
  23. King, Daniel. “Consulting Physicians: The Role of Specialist Medical Advisers in Cormac McCarthy’s Contemporary Fiction”. Literature and Medicine 30.2 (2012): 339–55. Print.Google Scholar
  24. Kittler, Friedrich. “Dracula’s Legacy”. Literature, Media, Information Systems. Ed. John Johnston. Amsterdam: OPA, 1997. 50–84. Print.Google Scholar
  25. Kreilkamp, Ivan. “A Voice Without a Body: The Phonographic Logic of Heart of Darkness”. Victorian Studies 40.2 (1997): 211–44. Print.Google Scholar
  26. Laennec, René. A Treatise on the Diseases of the Chest and on Mediate Auscultation. Trans. John Forbes. New York: Samuel Wood & Sons, 1835. Print.Google Scholar
  27. Ledgard, J.M. Giraffe. London: Vintage, 2007 [2006]. Print.Google Scholar
  28. Lingis, Alphonso. “Outside”. Social Text 29.1 (2011): 37–42. Print.Google Scholar
  29. Malewitz, Raymond. “Narrative Disruption as Animal Agency in Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing”. Modern Fiction Studies 60.3 (2014): 544–61. Print.Google Scholar
  30. Marshall, Kate. “The Old Weird”. Modernism/Modernity 23.3 (2016): 631–49. Print.Google Scholar
  31. May, Leila S. “‘Foul Things of the Night’: Dread in the Victorian Body”. Modern Language Review 93.1 (1998): 16–22. Print.Google Scholar
  32. McCarthy, Cormac. The Border Trilogy. London: Picador, 2002. Print.Google Scholar
  33. McGurl, Mark. “Everything and Less: Fiction in the Age of Amazon”. Modern Language Quarterly 77.3 (2016): 447–71. Print.Google Scholar
  34. McHugh, Susan. Animal Stories: Narrating Across Species Lines. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2011. Print.Google Scholar
  35. Miller, D.A. “Cage Aux Folles: Sensation and Gender in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White”. Representations 14 (1986): 107–36. Print.Google Scholar
  36. Robles, Mario Ortiz. “Liminanimal”. European Journal of English Studies 19.1 (2015): 10–23. Print.Google Scholar
  37. Pettman, Dominic. Sonic Intimacy: Voice, Species, Technics (or, How to Listen to the World). Palo Alto: Stanford UP, 2017. Print.Google Scholar
  38. Pick, Anat. “Vulnerability”. Critical Terms for Animal Studies. Ed. Lori Gruen. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2018. 410–23. Print.Google Scholar
  39. Pick, Anat. Creaturely Poetics: Animality and Vulnerability in Literature and Film. New York: Columbia UP, 2011. Print.Google Scholar
  40. Picker, John M. “Aural Anxieties and the Advent of Modernity”. The Victorian World. Ed. Martin Hewitt. London: Routledge, 2012. 603–18. Print.Google Scholar
  41. Ralston, Glory. While the Music Played. Amazon, 2016. Print.Google Scholar
  42. Saint-Amour, Paul. “Ulysses Pianola”. PMLA 130.1 (2015): 15–36. Print.Google Scholar
  43. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. London: Penguin Books, 2003 [1818]. Print.Google Scholar
  44. Shukin, Nicole. “Transfections of Animal Touch, Techniques of Biosecurity”. Social Semiotics 21.4 (2011): 483–501. Print.Google Scholar
  45. Sterne, Jonathan. The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2003. Print.Google Scholar
  46. Stiles, Anne. “Bram Stoker’s Brother, the Brain Surgeon”. Progress in Brain Research 205 (2013): 197–218. Print.Google Scholar
  47. Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Richmond: Alma Classics, 2015 [1897]. Print.Google Scholar
  48. Vadde, Aarthi. “Amateur Creativity: Contemporary Literature and the Digital Publishing Scene”. New Literary History 48.1 (2017): 27–51. Print.Google Scholar
  49. Viney, William, Felicity Callard, and Angela Woods. “Critical Medical Humanities: Embracing Entanglement, Taking Risks”. Medical Humanities 41 (2015): 2–7. Print.Google Scholar
  50. Wicke, Jennifer. “Vampiric Typewriting: Dracula and Its Media”. ELH 59.2 (1992): 467–93. Print.Google Scholar
  51. Wolfe, Cary. Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2003. Print.Google Scholar
  52. Youatt, William. Cattle; Their Breeds, Management and Diseases. London: Baldwin and Cradock, 1834. Print.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for the Study of Civilisations, Arts, and Letters (INCAL)UCLouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium

Personalised recommendations