Bradfield | Reconsidering Personification

Elizabeth Bradfield

For so long, we’ve been taught to avoid personification of the non-human as a sentimental pitfall, borne of the Romantics and, most iconically, Wordsworth wandering “lonely as a cloud,” devoid of social or biological tethers. But holding ourselves apart might not be doing us — or non-human beings — any kind of service. Recent science shows us all kinds of communication between plants and animals. What if we DO let clouds, elk, lupine speak? What if we imagine the inner minds of plants and birds and allow them agency? Can that expand empathy and perhaps care? Is there a way to do so ethically, filled with nuanced awareness of the science and life history of the non-human, and with an eco-justice mind? Can we invite and allow feelings without smearing ourselves across other species? We’ll read examples, jump-start ourselves with writing exercises, and discuss the opportunities and dangers of both embracing and avoiding personification.