Gemma Curto

'A "tragic mask": the human non-human continuum in Jonathan Safran Foer's Tree of Codes'

15 June 2023, 3pm
Via Zoom, contact for link.


This paper discusses a non-anthropocentric narrative, Jonathan Safran Foer's 2010 Tree of Codes, which is a cut-out of Bruno Schulz's 1934 The Street of Crocodiles, in relation to human non-human boundary crossings. I will explore the use of 'braided' narratives to introduce visual and linguistic elements that are as important to the human and nonhuman relations discussed in the text as words. Tree of Codes echoes the multiple temporalities that emerge when reading, as the page shows what was, what has been cut away and what is to come. 

Typical porous boundaries between animals and humans are blurred in The Street of Crocodiles, animality is often rendered as fascinating, highly poetic and grotesque. Foer, in turn, takes interspecies relationships a step further, completely erasing suggestions of animality in Schulz's text. I will suggest that Tree of Codes questions what constitutes nonhuman subjecthood and behaviour.


Gemma Curto is a PhD student at the University of Sheffield. Her research interests include contemporary literature, the environment and the behaviour of unpredicatble systems in science. Gemma has published an article in Green Letters on floods in biocentric graphic novels (2020), and a book chapter, 'Kathy Acker's violence in Blood and Guts in High School and Deleuze and Guattari's "desiring-machines",' which has recently been published with Bloomsbury Academic. Gemma is the co-host of the ShARC podcast.