Ron Edwards

Aug 25, 2017

The Edge of Evolution

Animality, Inhumanity, and Doctor Moreau

Oxford University Press 2016

purchase at bookshop.org As I was reading Ron Edward's fascinating and far-reaching new book, The Edge of Evolution: Animality, Inhumanity, and Doctor Moreau (Oxford University Press, 2016), I had a flashback. I must have been about seven. I was watching a film adaptation of H.G. Well's classic work of science fiction, The Island of Doctor Moreau. It's about a doctor who takes animals and tries to make them human by surgically alerting them. I don't remember much about the movie--I think Burt Lancaster played Moreau--but what I remember is that the story really creeped me out. It stayed with me for a long time. And, even now, as I remember those half-man, half-beasts that populate Dr. Moreau's island, I'm creeped out. The feeling is something like a primordial shiver. Now you may attribute that feeling to the sensitivity of a seven-year-old, and that's probably right: what were my parents thinking letting me watch a horror movie at that age? Edwards, however, has a different answer, one based on Well's original story. It's that these man-beasts that Wells imagines force us to realize us that we are, in our essence, animals. This realization is something that, as a culture and as individuals, we don't like to contemplate. It unnerves us. It creeps us out. And that's what Edward's book explores: it is, among other things, a case against human exceptionalism, one that asks us not only to rethink our animal selves, but also our relationship to those other creatures who share our animality.

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Eric LeMay

Eric LeMay is on the creative writing faculty at Ohio University. His work ranges from food writing to electronic literature. He is the author of three books, most recently In Praise of Nothing: Essay, Memoir, and Experiments (Emergency Press, 2014). He can be reached at eric@ericlemay.org.

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