Animal Fables

This abstract has open access
Abstract Summary
Aesop’s fables, a corpus of animal tales from ancient Greece, take the form of morality tales in which non-humans embody all-too-human weaknesses such as vanity, sloth, credulity and selfishness. One of the translators of the fables, the Anglo-Dutch physician Bernard Mandeville, would later write an Aesopian morality tale of his own: The Fable of the Bees. The work – a long satirical poem about the hypocrisy of commercial society – shot him to literary fame when it was denounced as immoral by the Middlesex Grand Jury in 1723. Arguing that Mandeville’s work anticipates many of the themes of evolutionary psychology, this paper suggests that he was the founder of a literary genre that came into its own in the work of Charles Darwin and his followers. It goes on to examine some of the animal fables of science – from ants taking slaves, to rats pressing pleasure levers, to chimps looking in the mirror – using Mandeville’s literary achievement to ask why and how the stories of non-human natures come so indelibly to stand in for aspects of the human condition.
Abstract ID :
HSS297
Submission Type
Chronological Classification :
18th century
Self-Designated Keywords :
Animals, fables, Mandeville, psychology, literature

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