Animal voices: Catherine Louisa Pirkis'The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective and the crimes of animality

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Abstract

While previous readings of Catherine Louisa Pirkis’ series The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective (1894) have focused on Brooke’s status as New Woman detective, this article considers the series in the context of Pirkis’ own engagement with animal rights and anti-vivisection campaigns in the late nineteenth century. The discussion focuses on one Loveday Brooke story in particular, “The Murder at Troyte’s Hill,” arguing that Pirkis dramatises contemporary anti-vivisectionist rhetoric (that animal experimentation was not only scientifically flawed, but morally damaging, leading to human experimentation). Pirkis’ fiction instead presents a number of contact zones in which human and animal identities are renegotiated, most significantly in the figure of Loveday Brooke herself. The article considers the representation of comparative philology in the story, as an emerging linguistic science which raised anxieties of cultural dissolution and which was often associated with the image of the vivisector. It concludes that the Pirkis stories demonstrate, anticipating Derrida, that to write of the animal in the nineteenth century is inevitably to write about crime, and vice versa; the animal is a perpetual presence in Victorian detective fiction.
Original languageEnglish
Article number65
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalHumanities
Volume7
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2018

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