SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

Charis Bredin

BA French and Arabic (University of Oxford), MA Arabic Literature (SOAS)
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Charis Bredin
Ms Charis Bredin
Email address:
Thesis title:
Creaturely Encounters: Animals in the Libyan literary imaginary
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors

PhD Research

Currently, little research has looked into the depiction of animals within Arabic literature, both classical and modern. As an initial step, my project focuses on encounters between humans and animals in modern Libyan fiction. Through considering the aesthetic, political, existential and spiritual dimensions of these encounters, I explore how the human condition is depicted within the literary texts, and whether and how traditional hierarchies and anthropocentric worldviews are upset.

When considering heavily censored regimes such as Libya from 1967-2011, literature featuring animals, particularly talking animals, tends to be read as political allegory, concealing subversive messages in animal guise. In several Libyan novels, figures and events from Gaddafi’s regime are indeed identifiable in the form of goats, apes and jungle animals. Identifying such allegories naturally forms part of my reading strategy, exploring how they both articulate and conceal subversive messages. Beyond these immediate political statements, however, I consider how animals raise wider ethical, existential and epistemological questions, and how their depiction relates back to Classical and Popular Arabic literary genres, as well as Islamic and Berber texts and traditions.

Considering the interaction of humans and animals within Libya’s harsh desert landscape, and how this has transformed with the discovery of commercial oil, represents another facet of my work. In many novels and short stories, hunger and drought are driving forces within the plot. Nature is not an idealised and innocent realm in most Libyan fiction, but a place where both animals and humans must struggle to survive, and where humans are constantly reminded of the physicality and extreme vulnerability that they share with animals.