272 pages, 25 illus
Animals have been subjects and objects of an ageless discourse in Western culture, which seeks through reincarnations, metamorphoses and philosophical vision to define the human and the animal and the nature of the border that separates the two. At a moment in history when the human being is about to be replaced by the machine, there is a blurring of the old line separating humans from animals. There is a desire to look for human uniqueness in the animal body, not the rational mind; a desire to re-examine the historical record in search of a lost tradition of zoomorphic shamans, trainers, poets and philosophers. Animal Acts records the history of that fluctuating boundary between animals and humans as expressed in literary, philosophical and scientific texts, but also in the visual arts and historical practices such as dissections, the hunt, zoo construction, and circus acts. Against a general background of the progressive exclusion of animals from human space and consciousness since the Enlightenment, the essays document a persistent return of animality, a becoming animal that has always existed within and at the margins of Western culture from the Middle Ages to the present. Essays on Marie de France, Boccaccio, Rabelais, La Fontaine, Schelling, Nietzsche, Flaubert, Kafka, Audubon, E.B. White, Levinas, Derrida, Heidegger, Dian Fossey and Gary Larson trace the lineage of those who have sought to enact the animal: to mime, tame, research, befriend and capture the beast within. Contributors include: Karla Armbruster, James Armstrong, David Clark, Tom Conley, Paul Fry, Jennifer Ham, Marie-Helene Huet, Dennis Minahen, Joyce Salisbury, Marian Scholtmeijer, Matthew Senior and Gregory Stone.
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