Article ID: CBB922911461

Leaning from the Human: Virginia Woolf, Olaf Stapledon, and the Challenge of Behaviorism (2020)


This essay argues that Virginia Woolf's Flush (1933) and Olaf Stapledon's Sirius (1944)—novels that focus on the representation of canine consciousness—can be read as a riposte to the reductive materialism of John B. Watson's behaviorism. Following in the wake of Watson's ridicule of anthropomorphism and the "stream of consciousness" (indeed, any consciousness at all), Woolf and Stapledon embrace these techniques as they work to affirm the sexuality, spirituality, and rich mental experience of nonhuman animals. Behaviorism is revealed as a productive antagonist that played a vital role in the development of early twentieth-century literature and literary criticism.

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Authors & Contributors
Ridley, Rosalind
Neto, Marcus Bentes de Carvalho
Saraiva, Fernando Tavares
Ustinova, Yulia
Debenham, Clare
See, Sam
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
History of Psychology
Perspectives on Science
Journal of Modern Literature
History of Psychiatry
Palgrave Pivot
York University (Canada)
Random House
Oxford University Press
Kent State University Press
Columbia University Press
Science and literature
Science and culture
Woolf, Virginia
Watson, John Broadus
Wells, Herbert George
Lawrence, David Herbert
Darwin, Charles Robert
Barrie, J.M. (James Matthew)
Time Periods
20th century, early
20th century, late
20th century
19th century
21st century
Great Britain
United States
Vienna (Austria)

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