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'Animals Under Man?': Margaret Gatty's 'Parables from Nature'

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>03/2003
<mark>Journal</mark>Women's Writing
Issue number1
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)137-152
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Margaret Gatty’s Parables from Nature (1855-71) use the form of the moral tale for children to conduct a polemic against Tennysonian doubt, cleverly deploying the voices of talking animals and plants. The perspectives of animals, plants and children are valorised above those of arrogant male doubters. When this happens, the ironies Gatty uses can escape control, and lead to more subversive readings than the overt message, overturning the conventional hierarchies she has set up. The voices of the marginalised take over the centre, and comic inversion privileges the unprivileged, in a carnivalesque celebration of possibilities that terrify Tennyson, rather than the orthodox rebuttal of doubt called for by the feminine role. The article revalues Gatty’s 'feminine' and ‘animal’s-eye’ take on the problems about the natural world that exercise Tennyson and other canonical male writers, including Darwin and Hardy.

Bibliographic note

The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Women's Writing, 10 (1), 2003, © Informa Plc