The future will have been animal: Dr Moreau and the aesthetics of monstrosity

Chris Danta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


In a note to his 1896 novel The Island of Doctor Moreau, H.G. Wells writes: Strange as it may seem to the unscientific reader, there can be no denying that, whatever amount of credibility attaches to the detail of this story, the manufacture of monstersand perhaps even quasi-human monstersis within the possibilities of vivisection. Wells has been proven right about the possibility of producing interspecies hybrids. Moreau is a late-Victorian text that remains relevant today, in part at least, because it anticipates certain key developments in late-twentieth-century molecular biology. In this essay, I relate Wells' novel to current human-chimera research, in which human tissue is genetically blended with animal tissue. Moreau is relevant to any discussion of scientific chimeras, I argue, not just because it anticipates their development, but also because it speculates upon the possible consequences of this type of scientific research. While orientating us towards a posthuman future, Wells also uses the ancient form of the folktale to demonstrate that humans are irreducibly animals. He blends science fiction and folktale anachronistically in his novel so that his reader might recognise in Moreau's vivisections a form of anthropomorphism that is monstrous or grotesque for being literalised. This, then, is perhaps the supreme anachronism of Moreau: the future will have been animal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)687-705
Number of pages19
JournalTextual Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'The future will have been animal: Dr Moreau and the aesthetics of monstrosity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this