Anecdote and anthropomorphism: Writing the Australian pied butcherbird

Association for the Study of Literature, Environment and Culture ¿ Australia and New Zealand
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australasian Journal of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology, 2011, 1 pp. 38 - 57
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This paper surveys textual references to the Australian pied butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis). We begin with my initial encounter with this songbird (in re-worked excerpts from the book Post Impressions), and then expand our review to aboriginal stories, historic ornithological reports and field guides, informal stories, archival Australian periodicals, childrens literature, literary references, and composers texts. Many of these reveal the tension between the superlative pied butcherbird vocal abilities and their ferocious hunting prowess. The paper shuns neither anecdote nor anthropomorphism as it attempts a new mode of interspecies narrative. I argue that anecdotes can contribute to an understanding of this understudied songbird. In inventorying pied butcherbird textual references, we find that our stories about them are ultimately stories about us as wellanthropomorphism seems to be an innate human proclivity. Reflecting on the lives of animals is of psychological, intellectual, and metaphysical significance for humans.
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