Two publications by Roberta Grandi – both on Watership Down

I. “Anyway, What’s a Doe More or Less?” Androcentrism in Watership Down (1972) and Tales from Watership Down (1996) by Richard Adams

Abstract: When Adams’s Watership Down reached the US market, it came under strong criticism for “its anti-feminist bias” (Resh Thomas 1974: 311). Several years later, Le Guin reiterated the censure of its “egregious sexism” (2009: 82), taxing the novel with falsifying animal behaviour. However, through the comparison of Lockley’s The Private Life of the Rabbit (1964) and Adams’ text, it is possible to prove that the latter’s representation of rabbits’ society is actually strongly indebted to his source text for its blatant androcentrism. The sequel, Tales from Watership Down, published in 1996, ostensibly tries to give the does more “floodlight” (Adams in Monaghan 2011: 14) and make amends for some of the accusations received. However, as the paper highlights, while the novel undeniably conveys a strong ecological message, its point of view remains strenuously patriarchal.

II. «Animals don’t behave like men… They have dignity and animality». Richard Adams’s Watership Down and Interspecies Relationships in the Anthropocene

Abstract: When thinking of animals in children’s literature, the pictures that usually come to mind are those of anthropomorphized beasts “merely embodying human tropes» (Jaques 2015: 45), talking creatures that mirror human behaviour and oftentimes interact with men. However, in Watership Down (1972), thanks to the accurate study of rabbits’ social organization as described in Lockley’s The Private Life of The Rabbit (1964), Adams manages to offer the reader a full “immersion in lapine natural history» (Buell 2014: 411). In this anthropocenic world, the “contact zones» (Haraway 2008:4) between men and animals are configured as conflict regions where the rabbits fight their daily battle against their predators. Yet, while all other non-human animals “do what they have to do» driven by fundamental needs, human beings are the only creatures whose attitude is both gratuitous and catastrophic. The article focuses on the way in which Adams, by allowing the reader to adopt a defamiliarized point of view on human behaviour “gives agency to the earth» (Battista 2011: 159). Moreover, the study also analyses the relevance and consequence of the fact that in Watership Down animals are capable of fostering fruitful interspecies relationships and even forming alliances with other creatures. Hence, “humanity» becomes a derogative term effectively replaced by “animality» as the byword for a new, eco-centric non-exploitative attitude towards other fellow creatures.

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