Date of Graduation

Spring 2014


Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Religious Studies

Committee Chair

John Schmalzbauer


The modern concept of religion as a discrete analytical category is intricately tied to notions of humanity and humanness, and, as such, the discourse on religion can be considered anthropogenic in two senses: in the sense that the term "religion" and its significations emerge as a product of human discourse, and in the sense that religion functions as a supposed originary moment in which the animal becomes human. In this study, I examine this theoretical problematic indirectly through the lens of science-fiction prose written by Ursula K. Le Guin, focusing on the novels The Dispossessed (1974) and The Word for World Is Forest (1972/1976), and selections from the anthology Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences (1987). In these works, Le Guin blurs the humanimal binary and in so doing equips the reader with various critical strategies for thinking about religion non-anthropocentrically. I show that Le Guin accomplishes this through insightful critiques of patriarchal capitalism and imperialism, lyrical prose that opens itself up to multiple interpretations, and a playful sensibility that defamiliarizes religious archetypes and subcategories. I conclude that the discipline of religious studies can further the critique of its own central premises by attending to the ways in which nonhuman lives intersect with humans in local religious worlds and engaging with similar works of imaginative literature that further challenge the humanimal binary.


critical animal studies, science-fiction studies, literary studies, critical theory of religion, Ursula K. Le Guin, Marxism, postcolonial theory, ecofeminism

Subject Categories



© Harrison Hall King

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