Performing Animals/Performing Humanity

  • Antonia LosanoEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature book series (PSAAL)


This chapter examines the cultural significance of performing animals in nineteenth-century Britain, a period when commentators praised progress made by contemporaries in improving training techniques, although many ostensible improvements focused on trainers’ effectiveness rather than actions reducing cruelty to animals. These performances regularly blurred the line between human and animal, often at what Victorian commentators pinpoint as the moment of pleasure. Performances make visible the slippage between metaphoric and metonymic animals, a slippage evident in The Old Curiosity Shop, which offers a fascinating glimpse into Dickens’s views of animals and animal training. The contrast between the treatment of dogs being trained for public performance and the pony that seems untrainable allows Dickens to explore the nature of autonomy in its most literal sense, as self-rule.


Dickens, Charles Animal performances Animal training Animal autonomy 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Middlebury CollegeMiddleburyUSA

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