Ashley Maher

Research, 2024, Grantee Link >

Ashley Maher received a grant for “Novel Zoologies,” a research project that aims to investigate how 20th-century British novelists, particularly animal rights campaigner Brigid Brophy, used zoological research on coevolution to formulate a radical model of human welfare that could also encapsulate animal welfare. The grant will be used to fund a visit to the Brigid Brophy archives at Indiana University in November 2024, and the creation of an article and presentation for the 2026 British Association for Modernist Studies conference. Ashley writes:

Within 20th-century British literature and history, the creation of the welfare state is seen as a pivotal event, with scholars analyzing how the word “welfare” assumed a range of political meanings and emotional resonances amid the destruction of World War II. Yet the degree to which animal welfare was a central part of that postwar conversation has been largely lost from view, despite the fact that British national identity came in this period to rest, in part, on being “a nation of animal lovers.” A key voice that has been lost is Brigid Brophy, author of Hackenfeller’s Ape and “The Rights of Animals.” Through consulting Brophy’s archives, I hope to reveal her far-reaching influence and her contributions to early animal rights activism.

Before joining the University of Groningen in The Netherlands in August 2019, Ashley Maher was the Stevenson Junior Research Fellow in English at University College, Oxford, and a Lecturer at the University of Sydney. She was awarded her Ph.D. at Washington University in St. Louis, where she was an Olin Fellow. Her research specialties include modern and contemporary British literature (particularly midcentury fiction), modernism across media, visual culture, the environment, British political history, architectural theory and history, the history of modernist criticism, and the novel. She is the author of Reconstructing Modernism: British Literature, Modern Architecture, and the State (OUP, 2020).

Ashley’s fascination with Brigid Brophy is shared with CAF’s board member and independent scholar Kim Stallwood. He wrote “A Felicitous Day for Fish,” an article reflecting on Brophy’s impact on animal rights. You can hear him talking about this piece on the Knowing Animals podcast. Kim also advocates for preserving documents that showcase the history of animal advocacy. As in Ashley’s case, archives are fundamental to furthering our understanding of the movement.