A Study of the Connection between Humans and Animals as Described In the Book, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

November 2, 2020 by Essay Writer


The relationship between humans and non-humans changed dramatically throughout recent history. Theorists Kathryn Shanley and Matthew Calarco argue that human and non-human beings, specifically regarding animal studies and ecocriticism, are more egalitarian than has been accepted in the past. When dealing with intersubectivity, a difficult idea for the human standpoint to adopt discloses that human superiority is non-existent; in its place is a sort of give-and-take relationship between human and non-human subjects.

Both Shanley and Calarco address the need for humankind to recognize that non-human beings may possess qualities that humankind does not and yet can benefit from being in relation with. In We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, the researchers in conducting a linguistic experiment using human and non-human subjects show “no interest in scientifically tracking the capacities that Fern holds that Rosemary may lack” (Calarco 619). Fern being the non-human subject, the social experiment between the two subjects is strictly limited to the capability of humankind, while Rosemary admits that the only advantage she has over Fern is speech (as cited in Calarco 620). There exists a clear disconnect between beings; however we see in the novel that Rosemary conceptualizes intersubjectivity on a deeper level of understanding than the researchers. She is able to identify with Fern as her equal, exemplifying the ability for egalitarianism between humans and animals. Similarly, humans possess the ability to connect relationally and learn from the environment. Indigenous culture consists of many stories relating to the environment such as one presented in Shanley’s article about Bull Lodge, a young boy who aspires to gain prestige in his tribe. Having “faith and affection for the Chief Medicine Pipe,” Bull Lodge embraces the pipe as his “guide and teacher. So he entrusted his life to it” (as cited in Shanley 185). Bull Lodge parallel’s Rosemary in that he relates to and respects the non-human being; he recognizes that the environment represented in the pipe offers wisdom and direction while in pursuit of prestige just as Rosemary recognizes that Fern has capability beyond conforming to the human communication. In both stories, humankind benefits from partnership with the non-human beings, either through mentorship or broadened perspective of communication.

Humankind limits their capability in the instance when they view themselves as superior to the natural world. Shanley and Calarco both hold the viewpoint that humankind is equal to non-human beings of nature, bringing the environment and animals working together with humans full circle. Egalitarianism between humans and non-humans allows for each being’s capabilities to be surpassed and superseded by intersubjectivity. While this will “require humility from humans, who must negotiate for power rather than dominate” (Shanley 179), the collaboration between beings can serve both to provide apprehension of the benefit non-humans have on the advancement of humankind and respect for animals and the environment.

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