Academic journal article Papers: Explorations into Children's Literature

Capitalism Run Wild: Zizou Corder's Lion Boy and Victor Kelleher's Dog Boy

Academic journal article Papers: Explorations into Children's Literature

Capitalism Run Wild: Zizou Corder's Lion Boy and Victor Kelleher's Dog Boy

Article excerpt

While capitalism has long made highly efficient ideological use of Darwin's 'survival of the fittest' principle to justify ruthless business practices, this appropriation of animal metaphor has taken on new and considerably more problematic resonances in the wake of globalization. At a time when the negative consequences of corporate greed are becoming more apparent, as inequalities widen and power is shifted beyond governments and their borders, there is a spate of children's novels that explicitly challenges this new world order. As cases in point, Zizou Corder's Lion Boy series (2003, 2004, and 2005) and Victor Kelleher's Dog Boy (2005) demonstrate a concordance of fictional representations between the UK and Australia. Both stories navigate neo-liberalism by trading on the classic schism between nature and culture, using animal tropes and instinctive behaviours in response to the artificiality and unnatural cruelty of business enterprises.

To put them in context, these novels are part of a broader trend in contemporary children's and YA texts that critique corporate practices in varied ways. For example, Irish author Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl (2002) uses fairies as cultural others in order to map the implications of humanity's relentless pursuit of wealth (Parsons, in press). In the US, Janet Tashjian's The Gospel According to Larry (2001) employs a realist, present day setting that directly challenges corporate and consumerist culture. Her compatriot, M.T Anderson, maps a futuristic dystopia in Feed (2002) to voice the same ideological agenda (Bullen and Parsons, under review). As this diversity of narrative approaches indicates, there is a variety of non-animal ways to metaphorically present the inhumanity of capitalism, but animals significantly situate the messages in opposition to humanity, and, interestingly, align with Christianity in ways that this discussion will track.

In the typical mode of children's texts, both Dog Boy and Lion Boy set out to promote morally sanctioned messages, in this case about the dangers of pursuing wealth. Instead, they posit a pack mentality in which family relations (both human-biological and blended across adopted species lines) are the key to happiness. But the packs also embody a patriarchal order that the names of the novels and protagonists explicitly highlight. The privileging of the family parallels and reinforces a lack of confidence in the motivations of corporate enterprises, and demonstrates the ineffectiveness of governments to contain the outcomes of late capitalism. These novels are thus directly responding to the new world conditions Ulrich Beck describes under the rubric Risk Society (1992). Literature typically holds up a culturally inflected mirror to such economic and political changes. Noreena Hertz's The Silent Takeover: global capitalism and the death of democracy (2001) catalogues the adult texts that appeared in the wake of Reganomics and Thatcherism including: Tom Woolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities, Martin Amis's Money and Michael Lewis's Liar Poker (p.23). Literary responsiveness to cultural (global, economic) conditions makes analysis of the newest books to hit the shelves of profound importance in children's literature scholarship. As an academic discipline, we endeavour to understand not only how representations of current socio-cultural shifts manifest themselves, but perhaps more importantly, the ways in which the issues at stake are being presented and mediated to children. The following analysis is explicitly motivated by this agenda.

Corder and Kelleher's protagonists invite comparison because they share a need to embrace animal instincts in order both to regulate and to participate in a dehumanising economic world. Lion boy takes on corporate malpractice in a not too distant future, while the excluded and embittered dog boy of a tribal past is seduced by the thrills of building his own corporate enterprise. Despite their alternative time-frames, both novels call on an identifiably Christian brand of altruistic morality as a redemptive alternative to the neo-liberal ethos they explicitly critique. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.