The first part of the title of Maren Linett's new book, Literary Bioethics, forms an oxymoron and brings to mind the age-old feud between the philosophers and the poets. In Book Ten of Plato's Republic, the philosophers famously banish the poets from the ideal city, basing this dismissal on the grounds that the poet is an imitator removed from truth. Bioethics descends from philosophy, and Linett presents a persuasive case for why the poets, or, more precisely, their descendants—the authors of imaginative literature—should be reinstated, for bioethical theory can be greatly enriched by the kinds of "imaginative leaps" literature facilitates (3).

Linett's third book attempts to bring disability studies and animal studies into conversation with one another with the hope of finding common ground, something that Sunaura Taylor, Kelly Oliver, Cary Wolf, and others have done to a lesser degree. Attempting to find common ground calls up the subject of the human, which the two fields approach differently. What does it mean to be human? is a question that has preoccupied western philosophy since its founding and that informs present-day bioethics. Triangulating animal studies, disability studies, and bioethics, Linett explores the various definitions of the human.

The book's core argument is that imaginative literature has a great deal to offer bioethics. She points out that philosophers and bioethicists produce thought experiments in order to illustrate their points about human situations and think through normative questions. She observes that the technique in mainstream bioethical reasoning of isolating an individual factor and then creating a thought experiment around it can become especially problematic in discussions of intellectual disability. In these discussions, an individual with a cognitive impairment can be reduced to having a sole characteristic—a low level of intelligence. Such a thought experiment compresses the human situation under discussion to such an extent that it excludes relevant contextualizing information, such as the "person's family, social environment, or sources of pleasure and joy," thereby delivering a highly distorted picture (89).

To counter this, she proposes that bioethicists incorporate imaginative literature into their methodology because it can provide fuller, more complex portrayals of human situations. Complex imaginative literature is often characterized by an artistry exhibiting "competing voices or points of view" and a richness of social detail, both of which can aid in working against "viewing people as abstract entities" (5). In essence, she posits literature as an alternative kind of thought laboratory, one more interested in taking into consideration the vital question of whose lives are to be valued when we think bioethically.

Moreover, complex imaginative literature's capaciousness lends itself to conducting resistant, or against-the-grain, readings, which, no matter what the imaginative author may have intended, permit the text to be examined more fruitfully than a typically flattened bioethical thought experiment. It also makes possible expanding the topics that can be considered. Such "vivid fictional worlds … establish literary-ethical laboratories where we can examine human exceptionalism, ideologies of cure, compressed morbidity, the devaluation of disabled people, and humane farming" (29).

The book's four chapters take up these topics as they construct the "literary-ethical laboratories" she describes. The key question running through the four is "how humanness can be manipulated" (117). Each chapter takes up a single novel, with the four texts spanning 1896 to 2005. The modus operandi of each is to interweave "strands of literary analysis" with "strands of bioethical investigation" to create a rich "tapestry" (3).

In the first chapter, titled "Beast Lives," Linett provides a disability studies reading devoted to H. G. Wells's 1896 The Island of Dr. Moreau. She delves deeply into its representation of the beast people as disabled human beings and of the transhumanist tendencies of Moreau, whose attempts to mold animals into perfect human beings repeatedly fail. She writes that the narrator, Prendick, "continually compares Moreau's imperfect creatures to deformed and disabled human beings…. Disability stands in for all that is 'wrong' with Moreau's creations" (51). Having adopted Allison Kafer's "curative imaginary," Moreau wishes to transcend the limitations of the body by aiming for perfection. Reading the novel against its grain, Linett concludes that its disability rhetoric, along with its ideologies of cure, work in tension with its attack on human exceptionalism.

Aldous Huxley's 1931 Brave New World serves as the subject of her second chapter, "Old Lives," where she interweaves age studies and disability studies. In the dystopian society the novel depicts, citizens are forced to end their lives around the age of sixty. This "compressed morbidity" Linett reads in light of present-day concerns such as the healthy aging movement, "compulsory youthfulness," and able-bodiedness. The chapter's most important intersection with disability studies has to do with the novel's rendering of societally compelled death, which is what disability activists, especially those associated with Not Dead Yet, fear about physician-assisted suicide.

The project continues in the third chapter, "Disabled Lives," with Flannery O'Connor's 1960 novel The Violent Bear It Away. This text becomes relevant for bioethical considerations having to do with selective abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. Linett argues that the narrative devalues and dehumanizes the cognitively impaired character Bishop even though O'Connor, as a practicing Roman Catholic, would have accepted as a matter of faith that he was made in God's image. Despite her Catholicism, the text intimates that, to be fully human, an individual must have a sufficient intellectual capacity to be able to wrestle with matters of religious faith, and Bishop lacks this capacity. Thus, religious and secular views collapse into one another, with the capacities criteria coming across as the principle one for judging human value. However, Linett reads the novel against the grain and maintains that it is possible for readers to re-claim Bishop's humanity.

The fourth chapter, "Cloned Lives," adopts Kazuo Ishiguro's 2005 Never Let Me Go as a basis for a meditation on how we really treat animals even when we think we are treating them humanely. The narrative tells the story of young cloned human beings who are educated and live comfortably but who are destined to serve as involuntary organ donors to the general normate population. In this chapter, Linett puts literature into conversation with the likes of foodie Michael Pollan, who "advocates eating humanely raised meat" (28). She reads Ishiguro's clones as being human versions of free-range animals being raised for slaughter. Linett writes that the book "highlights the cognitive dissonance inherent in treating beings well while valuing them solely instrumentally and preparing to kill them" (28). Rosemarie Garland Thomson has observed regarding this text that the clones "paradoxically possess normate embodiment and disabled status" (qtd. in Linett 142). In other words, the clones are able-bodied and educated but still occupy the status of the disabled due to the fact that the general society has too much at stake to change its views about them.

In the Epilogue titled "Revaluing Lives," Linett compares and contrasts the eugenic movement of the early twentieth century with the new 'liberal eugenics" of the twenty-first. This section alone is well worth the price of the book, but, for the sake of brevity, this reviewer will pass over discussing it.

The book's writing is lucid, the structure is well organized, the research is meticulously conducted, and the main claims are masterfully argued. Literary Bioethics will be useful for those working in the fields of disability studies, literary studies, sociology, animal studies, age studies, and bioethics. It will be especially helpful for those trying to think through thorny questions having to do with justice for both disabled people and animals.

How will bioethicists respond to this book? Will these descendants of the philosophers allow the descendants of the poets to re-enter the ideal city? As a discipline, bioethics institutes itself by walling itself off and keeping reason inside the wall and affect outside. Those attempting to enter into a conversation with them often are automatically disqualified on the grounds that they are arguing from sentiment. Linett obviously has hope that this dynamic can be altered and that the wall can be breached.

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