Breaking Bread and Sharing Dreams with the Other-than-human

Extinction and Multispecies Community in Lydia Millet’s “How the Dead Dream”

  • Daniela Fargione
Keywords: extinction, multispecies community, Lydia Millet, posthumanism


Lydia Millet’s novels have gained momentum within environmental discourses since they often prove how “looking outside the human is what gives human life its meaning” (Millet). In this article, I analyze How the Dead Dream, the first novel of a trilogy published almost ten years after J.M. Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals (2001), the novella written for the 1997-1998 Tanner Lectures at Princeton University. Millet’s book, I argue, is a direct reply to Coetzee’s invitation to reconsider the place of the human vis-à-vis the other-than-human within the complex framework of posthumanism. This implies a recession of the onto-epistemological and ethical divide among species that saturate popular discourses on extinction. Drawing on material ecocriticism and, especially, on Stacy Alaimo’s research (Exposed, 2016), I investigate and critique different forms of epistemological impermeability, such as the assumed domestic safety, cleanness, and the sovereignty of the (male) Western subjectivity. By tracing the radical transformation of T., the main character in the book and rapacious speculator, I demonstrate how the aesthetic and the ethical intersect in the narration of this story of coevolution and cohabitation.

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