No Longer Lost on the Human Highway
Human–Animal Relationships in Neil Young’s Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life & Cars
In recent years, Canadian/US singer, songwriter, and author Neil Young’s production shows increased signs of environmental awareness, manifested in his promotion of biofuels, critique of genetic manipulation, biotechnology, and ecocide, as well as in his warm attitude to non-human animals. These issues are dealt with in detail in his recent memoir Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life & Cars (2015), as well as on his recently released albums such as The Monsanto Years (2015) and Earth (2016). While this interest in the natural world could be seen as a simple expression of a 1960s countercultural hippie world view, this essay will propose a different reading of the meaning of animals and the non-human in Young’s Special Deluxe by placing it in the context of human–animal studies and its critique of anthropocentrism. By reading the memoir’s representations of non-human animals in tandem with the emphatic role of the environment on Young’s recent albums, this essay argues that Young’s recent work reveals an increased concern for relationality and non-humans in human life and thus problematizes modernity’s insistence on anthropocentrism and human mastery over nature. Based on the critique of modernity and its anthropocentric hierarchies presented by human–animal studies scholarship (Haraway 2008; Armstrong 2008; Marvin and McHugh 2014), it is suggested that Young’s work foregrounds an explicit concern with the non-human world through its increasing focus on the relationality of the human and the non-human, and their mutual interdependence. The importance of non-human others, especially dogs, to the memoir’s narrator is addressed in detail, and the close transspecies relationship seen as an example of the emotional significance of non-human others in everyday life.
Keywords: Neil Young, Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life & Cars, environmentalism, human–animal studies, anthropocentricism
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