PJAS 10-3

Małgorzata Rutkowska
“A Dog’s Life”: Pet-Keeping in Canadian and American Animal Autobiographies at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 10 (2016), pp. 37-48


The article focuses on generic conventions of sentimental “animal autobiographies” published by Canadian and American authors at the turn of the twentieth century. Beautiful Joe (1893) by M. M. Saunders and Pussy Meow: The Autobiography of a Cat (1903) by S. L. Patteson were first-person accounts of animal lives propagating humane treatment of domestic animals. By presenting dogs and cats as sentient, intelligent and articulate, such works aimed to evoke the young readers’ interest in animals’ inner lives and stress their emotional kinship with humans. In these books pet-keeping was presented as a socially meaningful practice as it provided daily exercise in “the domestic ethic of kindness” teaching empathy and responsibility for creatures dependent on humans. At the same time, abuse and cruelty towards animals indicated lack of moral principles. However, in some early twentieth-century stories, which explored darker side of pet-keeping (“A Dog’s Tale” by Mark Twain [1903] and “Memoirs of the Yellow Dog” by O’Henry [1906]), certain conventions of sentimental animal autobiographies were modified and Victorian ideals of domesticity questioned.

Keywords: animal autobiography, sentimentality, domesticity

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.10/2016.03

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