Bruce Thomas Boehrer


On his book Animal Characters: Nonhuman Beings in Early Modern Literature

Cover Interview of June 27, 2010


Our treatment of nonhuman beings has grown into one of the more worrisome aspects of modern social practice, posing problems on the economic, ecological, dietary, and ethical levels.  Destruction of habitat, species persecution, factory farming, zoo-keeping, animal experimentation, animal entertainment: these and related practices have grown markedly—some would say alarmingly—over the past five hundred years.

As a piece of literary and social history, Animal Characters supplies some of the back-story to these issues.  One chapter traces the history of the turkey from its domestication by the Aztecs to its appearance on the tables of European diners.  Another follows the transformation of the horse from a sentient instrument of warfare into an accouterment of elite sporting activities.  Another describes the parrot’s evolution from menagerie marvel to annoying house-pet.

More generally, Animal Characters draws inspiration from the idea that our humanity is nowhere put more clearly on display, for better and for worse, than in our encounters with nonhuman life.  To this extent, the book contributes to a broad and ongoing conversation about how we relate to the natural world and its other living creatures.

© 2010 Bruce Boehrer