Shakespeare wrote of lions, shrews, horned toads, curs, mastiffs, and hellhounds. But the word “animal” itself only appears very rarely in his work, which was in keeping with sixteenth-century usage. As Laurie Shannon reveals in The Accommodated Animal, the modern human / animal divide first came strongly into play in the seventeenth century, with Descartes’s famous formulation that reason sets humans above other species: “I think, therefore I am.” Before that moment, animals could claim a firmer place alongside humans in a larger vision of belonging, or what she terms cosmopolity.
With Shakespeare as her touchstone, Shannon explores the creaturely dispensation that existed until Descartes. She finds that early modern writers used classical natural history and readings of Genesis to credit animals with various kinds of stakeholdership, prerogative, and entitlement, employing the language of politics in a constitutional vision of cosmic membership. Using this political idiom to frame cross-species relations, Shannon argues, carried with it the notion that animals possess their own investments in the world, a point distinct from the question of whether animals have reason. It also enabled a sharp critique of the tyranny of humankind. By answering “the question of the animal” historically, The Accommodated Animal makes a brilliant contribution to cross-disciplinary debates engaging animal studies, political theory, intellectual history, and literary studies.
From the pet that we live with and care for, to news items such as animal cloning, and the use of various creatures in film, television and advertising, animals are a constant presence in our lives.
Animal is a timely overview of the many ways in which we live with animals, and assesses many of the paradoxes of our relationships with them: for example, why is the pet that sits by the dinner table never for eating? Examining novels such as Charlotte’s Web, films such as Old Yeller and Babe, science and advertising, fashion and philosophy, Animal also evaluates the ways in which we think about animals and challenges a number of the assumptions we hold. Why is it, for example, that animals are such a constant presence in children’s literature? And what does it mean to wear fake fur? Is fake fur an ethical avoidance of animal suffering, or merely a sanitized version of the unacceptable use of animals as clothing?
Neither evangelical nor proselytizing, Animal invites the reader to think beyond the boundaries of a subject that has a direct effect on our day-to-day lives.
During the eighteenth century, some of the most popular British poetry showed a responsiveness to animals that anticipated the later language of animal rights. Such poems were widely cited in later years by legislators advocating animal welfare laws like Martin’s Act of 1822, which provided protections for livestock. In The Animal Claim, Tobias Menely links this poetics of sensibility with Enlightenment political philosophy, the rise of the humanitarian public, and the fate of sentimentality, as well as longstanding theoretical questions about voice as a medium of communication.
In the Restoration and eighteenth century, philosophers emphasized the role of sympathy in collective life and began regarding the passionate expression humans share with animals, rather than the spoken or written word, as the elemental medium of community. Menely shows how poetry came to represent this creaturely voice and, by virtue of this advocacy, facilitated the development of a viable discourse of animal rights in the emerging public sphere. Placing sensibility in dialogue with classical and early-modern antecedents as well as contemporary animal studies, The Animal Claim uncovers crucial connections between eighteenth-century poetry; theories of communication; and post-absolutist, rights-based politics.
How can literary imagination help us engage with the lives of other animals? The question represents one of the liveliest areas of inquiry in the humanities, and Mark Payne seeks to answer it by exploring the relationship between human beings and other animals in writings from antiquity to the present. Ranging from ancient Greek poets to modernists like Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, Payne considers how writers have used verse to communicate the experience of animal suffering, created analogies between human and animal societies, and imagined the kind of knowledge that would be possible if human beings could see themselves as animals see them.
The Animal Part also makes substantial contributions to the emerging discourse of the posthumanities. Payne offers detailed accounts of the tenuousness of the idea of the human in ancient literature and philosophy and then goes on to argue that close reading must remain a central practice of literary study if posthumanism is to articulate its own prehistory. For it is only through fine-grained literary interpretation that we can recover the poetic thinking about animals that has always existed alongside philosophical constructions of the human. In sum, The Animal Part marks a breakthrough in animal studies and offers a significant contribution to comparative poetics.
Just like we do today, people in medieval times struggled with the concept of human exceptionalism and the significance of other creatures. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the medieval bestiary. Sarah Kay’s exploration of French and Latin bestiaries offers fresh insight into how this prominent genre challenged the boundary between its human readers and other animals.
Bestiaries present accounts of animals whose fantastic behaviors should be imitated or avoided, depending on the given trait. In a highly original argument, Kay suggests that the association of beasts with books is here both literal and material, as nearly all surviving bestiaries are copied on parchment made of animal skin, which also resembles human skin. Using a rich array of examples, she shows how the content and materiality of bestiaries are linked due to the continual references in the texts to the skins of other animals, as well as the ways in which the pages themselves repeatedly—and at times, it would seem, deliberately—intervene in the reading process. A vital contribution to animal studies and medieval manuscript studies, this book sheds new light on the European bestiary and its profound power to shape readers’ own identities.
Beginning with a historical account of why animal stories pose endemic critical challenges to literary and cultural theory, Animal Stories argues that key creative developments in narrative form became inseparable from shifts in animal politics and science in the past century. Susan McHugh traces representational patterns specific to modern and contemporary fictions of cross-species companionship through a variety of media—including novels, films, fine art, television shows, and digital games—to show how nothing less than the futures of all species life is at stake in narrative forms.
McHugh’s investigations into fictions of people relying on animals in civic and professional life—most obviously those of service animal users and female professional horse riders—showcase distinctly modern and human–animal forms of intersubjectivity. But increasingly graphic violence directed at these figures indicates their ambivalent significance to changing configurations of species.
Reading these developments with narrative adaptations of traditional companion species relations during this period— queer pet memoirs and farm animal fictions—McHugh clarifies the intercorporeal intimacies—the perforations of species boundaries now proliferating in genetic and genomic science—and embeds the representation of animals within biopolitical frameworks.
As animals recede from our world, what tale is being told by literature’s creatures? Behold an Animal: Four Exorbitant Readings examines incongruous animals in the works of four major contemporary French writers: an airborne horse in a novel by Jean-Philippe Toussaint, extinct orangutans in Éric Chevillard, stray dogs in Marie NDiaye, vanishing (bits of) hedgehogs in Marie Darrieussecq. Resisting naturalist assumptions that an animal in a story is simply—literally or metaphorically—an animal, Thangam Ravindranathan understands it rather as the location of something missing. The animal is a lure: an unfinished figure fleeing the frame, crossing bounds of period, genre, even medium and language. Its flight traces an exorbitant (self-)portrait in which thinking admits to its commerce with life and flesh. It is in its animals, at the same time unbearably real and exquisitely unreal, that literature may today be closest to philosophy.
This book’s primary focus is the contemporary French novel and continental philosophy. In addition to Toussaint, Chevillard, NDiaye, and Darrieussecq, it engages the work of Jean de La Fontaine, Eadweard Muybridge, Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, Samuel Beckett, and Francis Ponge.
A prize-winning poet argues that blackness acts as the caesura between human and nonhuman, man and animal.
Throughout US history, black people have been configured as sociolegal nonpersons, a subgenre of the human. Being Property Once Myself delves into the literary imagination and ethical concerns that have emerged from this experience. Each chapter tracks a specific animal figure—the rat, the cock, the mule, the dog, and the shark—in the works of black authors such as Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Jesmyn Ward, and Robert Hayden. The plantation, the wilderness, the kitchenette overrun with pests, the simultaneous valuation and sale of animals and enslaved people—all are sites made unforgettable by literature in which we find black and animal life in fraught proximity.
Joshua Bennett argues that animal figures are deployed in these texts to assert a theory of black sociality and to combat dominant claims about the limits of personhood. Bennett also turns to the black radical tradition to challenge the pervasiveness of antiblackness in discourses surrounding the environment and animals. Being Property Once Myself is an incisive work of literary criticism and a close reading of undertheorized notions of dehumanization and the Anthropocene.
Bringing together leading scholars from Belgium, Canada, France, and the United States, French Thinking about Animals makes available for the first time to an Anglophone readership a rich variety of interdisciplinary approaches to the animal question in France. While the work of French thinkers such as Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and Felix Guattari has been available in English for many years, French Thinking about Animals opens up a much broader cross-cultural dialogue within animal studies. These original essays, many of which have been translated especially for this volume, draw on anthropology, ethology, geography, history, legal studies, phenomenology, and philosophy to interrogate human-animal relationships. They explore the many ways in which animals signify in French history, society, and intellectual history, illustrating the exciting new perspectives being developed about the animal question in the French-speaking world today. Built on the strength and diversity of these contributions, French Thinking about Animals demonstrates the interdisciplinary and internationalism that are needed if we hope to transform the interactions of humans and nonhuman animals in contemporary society.
From pet keeping to sky burials, a posthuman and ecocritical interrogation of and challenge to human particularity in medieval texts
Mainstream medieval thought, like much of mainstream modern thought, habitually argued that because humans alone had language, reason, and immortal souls, all other life was simply theirs for the taking. But outside this scholarly consensus teemed a host of other ways to imagine the shared worlds of humans and nonhumans. How Not to Make a Human engages with these nonsystematic practices and thought to challenge both human particularity and the notion that agency, free will, and rationality are the defining characteristics of being human.
Recuperating the Middle Ages as a lost opportunity for decentering humanity, Karl Steel provides a posthuman and ecocritical interrogation of a wide range of medieval texts. Exploring such diverse topics as medieval pet keeping, stories of feral and isolated children, the ecological implications of funeral practices, and the “bare life” of oysters from a variety of disanthropic perspectives, Steel furnishes contemporary posthumanists with overlooked cultural models to challenge human and other supremacies at their roots.
By collecting beliefs and practices outside the mainstream of medieval thought, How Not to Make a Human connects contemporary concerns with ecology, animal life, and rethinkings of what it means to be human to uncanny materials that emphasize matters of death, violence, edibility, and vulnerability.
Nonhuman figures are ubiquitous in the work of Franz Kafka, from his early stories down to his very last one. Despite their prominence throughout his oeuvre, Kafka’s animal representations have been considered first and foremost as mere allegories of intrahuman matters. In recent years, the allegorization of Kafka’s animals has been poetically dismissed by Kafka’s commentators and politically rejected by posthumanist scholars. Such critique, however, has yet to inspire either an overarching or an interdiscursive account. This book aims to fill this lacuna. Positing animal stories as a distinct and significant corpus within Kafka’s entire poetics, and closely examining them in dialogue with both literary and posthumanist analysis, Kafka’s Zoopoetics critically revisits animality, interspecies relations, and the very human-animal contradistinction in the writings of Franz Kafka.
Kafka’s animals typically stand at the threshold between humanity and animality, fusing together human and nonhuman features. Among his liminal creatures we find a human transformed into vermin (in “The Metamorphosis”), an ape turned into a human being (in “A Report to an Academy”), talking jackals (in “Jackals and Arabs”), a philosophical dog (in “Researches of a Dog”), a contemplative mole-like creature (in “The Burrow”), and indiscernible beings (in “Josefine, the Singer or the Mouse People”). Depicting species boundaries as mutable and obscure, Kafka creates a fluid human-animal space, which can be described as “humanimal.” The constitution of a humanimal space radically undermines the stark barrier between human and other animals, dictated by the anthropocentric paradigm. Through denying animalistic elements in humans, and disavowing the agency of nonhuman animals, excluding them from social life, and neutralizing compassion for them, this barrier has been designed to regularize both humanity and animality. The contextualization of Kafka's animals within posthumanist theory engenders a post-anthropocentric arena, which is simultaneously both imagined and very real.
Richard J. King Reaktion Books, 2011 Library of Congress QL444.M33K532 2011
Other than that it tastes delicious with butter, what do you know about the knobbily-armoured, scarlet creature staring back at you from your fancy dinner plate? From ocean to stock pot, there are two sides to every animal story. For instance, since there are species of lobsters without claws, how exactly do you define a lobster? And how did a pauper’s food transform into a meal synonymous with a luxurious splurge? To answer these questions on behalf of lobster the animal is Richard J. King, a former fishmonger and commercial lobsterman, who has chronicled the creature’s long natural history.
Part of the Animal series, King’s Lobster takes us on a journey through the history, biology, and culture of lobsters, including the creature’s economic and environmental status worldwide. He describes the evolution of technologies to capture these creatures and addresses the ethics of boiling them alive. Along the way, King also explores the salacious lobster palaces of the 1920s, the animal’s thousand-year status as an aphrodisiac, and how the lobster has inspired numerous artists, writers, and thinkers including Aristotle, Dickens, Thoreau, Dalí, and Woody Allen.
Whether you want to liberate lobsters from their supermarket tanks or crack open their claws, this book is an essential read, describing the human connection to the lobster from his ocean home to the dinner table.
In the nineteenth century, richly-drawn social fiction became one of England’s major cultural exports. At the same time, a surprising companion came to stand alongside the novel as a key embodiment of British identity: the domesticated pet. In works by authors from the Brontës to Eliot, from Dickens to Hardy, animals appeared as markers of domestic coziness and familial kindness. Yet for all their supposed significance, the animals in nineteenth-century fiction were never granted the same fullness of character or consciousness as their human masters: they remain secondary figures. Minor Creatures re-examines a slew of literary classics to show how Victorian notions of domesticity, sympathy, and individuality were shaped in response to the burgeoning pet class. The presence of beloved animals in the home led to a number of welfare-minded political movements, inspired in part by the Darwinian thought that began to sprout at the time. Nineteenth-century animals may not have been the heroes of their own lives but, as Kreilkamp shows, the history of domestic pets deeply influenced the history of the English novel.
Daniel Allen Reaktion Books, 2010 Library of Congress QL737.C25A45 2010 | Dewey Decimal 599.769
Although rarely seen in the wild, the otter is admired for its playful character and graceful aquatic agility, which were established in the popular imagination through books like Tarka the Otter and Ring of Bright Water. This, however, is just a very small part of their story—throughout history the otter has also been widely hunted for its fur and flesh. In Otter, human geographer Daniel Allen reveals how the animal’s identity has been shaped by this variety of human interactions.
As Allen explains, otters, while feared by some communities, were hunted to near extinction by others—killed for their valuable pelts in the north Pacific and chased with hounds for sport in Britain. In contrast, Allen describes how Native Americans revered the otter and how indigenous fishermen in parts of Asia trained otters to assist them. Sadly, now all thirteen species of otter are considered threatened, and their survival is by no means certain.
In this wide-ranging look at the otter, Allen incorporates anecdotes from folklore, sports, popular literature, media, and conservation studies in order to unravel this complicated cultural history. Otter isa lively book that offers a new way of thinking about this admired and endangered animal.
Despite the central role that animals play in African writing and daily life, African literature and African thinkers remain conspicuously absent from the field of animal studies. The Postcolonial Animal: African Literature and Posthuman Ethics demonstrates the importance of African writing to animal studies by analyzing how postcolonial African writing—including folktales, religion, philosophy, and anticolonial movements—has been mobilized to call for humane treatment of nonhuman others. Mwangi illustrates how African authors grapple with the possibility of an alternative to eating meat, and how they present postcolonial animal-consuming cultures as shifting toward an embrace of cultural and political practices that avoid the use of animals and minimize animal suffering. The Postcolonial Animal analyzes texts that imagine a world where animals are not abused or used as a source of food, clothing, or labor, and that offer instruction in how we might act responsibly and how we should relate to others—both human and nonhuman—in order to ensure a world free of oppression. The result is an equitable world where even those who are utterly foreign to us are accorded respect and where we recognize the rights of all marginalized groups.
In The Postmodern Animal, Steve Baker explores how animal imagery has been used in modern and contemporary art and performance, and in postmodern philosophy and literature, to suggest and shape ideas about identity and creativity. Baker cogently analyses the work of such European and American artists as Olly and Suzi, Mark Dion, Paula Rego and Sue Coe, at the same time looking critically at the constructions, performances and installations of Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Bourgeois, Joseph Beuys and other significant late twentieth-century artists. Baker's book draws parallels between the animal's place in postmodern art and poststructuralist theory, drawing on works as diverse as Jacques Derrida's recent analysis of the role of animals in philosophical thought and Julian Barnes's best-selling Flaubert's Parrot.
We tend to think of rhetoric as a solely human art. After all, only humans can use language artfully to make a point, the very definition of rhetoric.
Yet when you look at ancient and early modern treatises on rhetoric, what you find is surprising: they’re crawling with animals. With Rhetoric in Tooth and Claw, Debra Hawhee explores this unexpected aspect of early thinking about rhetoric, going on from there to examine the enduring presence of nonhuman animals in rhetorical theory and education. In doing so, she not only offers a counter-history of rhetoric but also brings rhetorical studies into dialogue with animal studies, one of the most vibrant areas of interest in humanities today. By removing humanity and human reason from the center of our study of argument, Hawhee frees up space to study and emphasize other crucial components of communication, like energy, bodies, and sensation.
Drawing on thinkers from Aristotle to Erasmus, Rhetoric in Tooth and Claw tells a new story of the discipline’s history and development, one animated by the energy, force, liveliness, and diversity of our relationships with our “partners in feeling,” other animals.
Katarzyna and Sergiusz Michalski Reaktion Books, 2010 Library of Congress QL458.4.M53 2010 | Dewey Decimal 595.44
Both fascinating and frightening, the spider has a rich symbolic presence in the imagination. At once a representative of death, due to its fangs and dangerous poison, the spider can also represent life and creation, because of its intricate web and females who carry sacs of thousands of tiny eggs. In this wide-ranging book, Katarzyna and Sergiusz Michalskiinvestigate the natural history and cultural significance of the spider.
From ancient Greek myth to Dostoyevsky, the authors explore the appearance of spiders in literature and their depictions in art, paying particular attention to the sculptures of Louise Bourgeois. Horror stories, science fiction, folklore, and children’s tales are also investigated, as well as the affliction of arachnophobia and the procedures used to cure it. The association of the spider with women or mothers is explored alongside the role of the spider metaphor in Freudian and Jungian psychoanalysis, and the Michalskis’ in-depth account concludes with a look at the unfavorable portrayal of the sinister spider in film.
A thorough and engaging look at the natural and cultural history of the spider, this book will appeal to anybody who admires or fears this delicate yet dangerous creature.
Victorian Dogs, Victorian Men: Affect and Animals in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture by Keridiana W. Chez is the first monograph located at the intersection of animal and affect studies to examine how gender is produced via the regulation of interspecies relationships. Looking specifically at the development of the human-dog relationship, Chez argues that the bourgeoisie fostered connections with canine companions in order to mediate and regulate gender dynamics in the family. As Chez shows, the aim of these new practices was not to use animals as surrogates to fill emotional vacancies but rather to incorporate them as “emotional prostheses.”
Chez traces the evolution of the human-dog relationship as it developed parallel to an increasingly imperialist national discourse. The dog began as the affective mediator of the family, then addressed the emotional needs of its individual members, and finally evolved into both “man’s best friend” and worst enemy. By the last decades of the nineteenth century, the porous human-animal boundary served to produce the “humane” man: a liberal subject enabled to engage in aggressive imperial projects. Reading the work of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Margaret Marshall Saunders, Bram Stoker, and Jack London, Victorian Dogs, Victorian Men charts the mobilization of affect through transatlantic narratives, demonstrating the deep interconnections between animals, affect, and gender.
Wild Animal Story
edited by Ralph H. Lutts Temple University Press, 2001 Library of Congress PS374.N3W55 1998 | Dewey Decimal 813.52080362
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the wild animal story emerged in Canadian literature as a distinct genre, in which animals pursue their own interests—survival for themselves, their offspring, and perhaps a mate, or the pure pleasure of their wildness.
Bringing together some of the most celebrated wild animal stories, Ralph H. Lutts places them firmly in the context of heated controversies about animal intelligence and purposeful behavior. Widely regarded as entertaining and educational, the early stories—by Charles G. D. Roberts, Ernest Thompson Seton, John Muir, Jack London and others—had an avid readership among adults and children. But some naturalists and at least one hunter—Theodore Roosevelt—discredited these writers as "nature fakers," accusing them of falsely portraying animal behavior.
The stories and commentaries collected here span the twentieth century. As present day animal behaviorists, psychologists, and the public attempt to sort out the meaning of what animals do and our obligations to them, Ralph Lutts maps some of the prominent features of our cultural landscape.
The Springfield Fox by Ernest Thompson Seton
The Sounding of the Call by Jack London
Stickeen by John Muir
Journey to the Sea by Rachel Carson
Other selections include esssays by Theoore Roosevelt, John Burroughs, Margaret Atwood, and Ralph H. Lutts.
The wolf is one of the most widely distributed canid species, historically ranging throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere. For millennia, it has also been one of the most pervasive images in human mythology, art, and psychology. Wolves and the Wolf Myth in American Literature examines the wolf’s importance as a figure in literature from the perspectives of both the animal’s physical reality and the ways in which writers imagine and portray it. Author S. K. Robisch examines more than two hundred texts written in North America about wolves or including them as central figures. From this foundation, he demonstrates the wolf’s role as an archetype in the collective unconscious, its importance in our national culture, and its ecological value. Robisch takes a multidisciplinary approach to his study, employing a broad range of sources: myths and legends from around the world; symbology; classic and popular literature; films; the work of scientists in a number of disciplines; human psychology; and field work conducted by himself and others. By combining the fundamentals of scientific study with close readings of wide-ranging literary texts, Robisch astutely analyzes the correlation between actual, living wolves and their representation on the page and in the human mind. He also considers the relationship between literary art and the natural world, and argues for a new approach to literary study, an ecocriticism that moves beyond anthropocentrism to examine the complicated relationship between humans and nature.