The Decadent Werewolf: Animal Ethics in the Autobiographical Rachilde

Abstract: In her numerous romans à clef like La Marquise de Sade and Les Rageac, as well as her more explicitly autobiographical texts like Dans le puits and Face à la peur, Rachilde tells a series of anecdotes that underscore her deep investment in animal ethics. Throughout her autobiographical œuvre, Rachilde constructs her alter ego of the writerly loup-garou, whose zealous animal activism is determined by both her lupine kinship, as well as her Decadent aesthetic value system, which sees in the animal a radical individualism and a feral beauty that is at odds with the ugly, vivisecting brutality underlying positivist ideals. The present paper explores the parameters of her animal ethics, paying close attention to the ways in which her sympathy for animals aligns not only with her broader Decadent enterprise, but also a proto-ecofeminism invested in the blurring of gender and species-based hierarchical binaries.

Christopher Robison
Swarthmore College