On Humans as Animals: Sparring with the beast in Douglas Livingstone’s poem “Descent from the Tower”

  • M Everitt


This paper draws on Charles Darwin’s argument in The Descent of Man that humans are animals, and then offers a close reading of Douglas Livingstone’s poem “Traffic interlude: Descent from the Tower”. It argues that the poem uses the genre of fable to tell the story of man’s internal tussle between intellect and instinct, between his left-brain and rightbrain activity, and that the tigress in the poem represents his animal or instinctual nature. To attain synthesis the protagonist has to descend from the tower of civilization into the healing waters of the lake where he frolics with the tigress. The paper claims that the unifying power of the human imagination offers a possibility of synthesis between the intuitive and the rational and that this could lead to an authentically ecological sensibility.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2159-9130
print ISSN: 1013-929X