216 pages, Illustrations
Kari Weil provides a critical introduction to the field of animal studies as well as an appreciation of its thrilling acts of destabilization. Examining real and imagined confrontations between human and nonhuman animals, she charts the presumed lines of difference between human beings and other species and the personal, ethical, and political implications of those boundaries.
Weil's considerations recast the work of such authors as Kafka, Mann, Woolf, and Coetzee, and such philosophers as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze, Agamben, Cixous, and Hearne, while incorporating the aesthetic perspectives of such visual artists as Bill Viola, Frank Noelker, and Sam Taylor-Wood and the "visual thinking" of the autistic animal scientist Temple Grandin. She addresses theories of pet keeping and domestication; the importance of animal agency; the intersection of animal studies, disability studies, and ethics; and the role of gender, shame, love, and grief in shaping our attitudes toward animals. Exposing humanism's conception of the human as a biased illusion, and embracing posthumanism's acceptance of human and animal entanglement, Weil unseats the comfortable assumptions of humanist thought and its species-specific distinctions.
"Weil maps the theoretical history of animal studies while also setting a course for future studies. She makes challenging theoretical arguments accessible and inviting. The framework of ethics also offers a framework for abstract discussion that should include even those without deep theoretical knowledge into the conversation."
– Teresa Mangum, director, Obermann Center for Advanced Studies at the University of Iowa
"From J.M. Coetzee and Bill Viola to Virginia Woolf and Sam Taylor-Wood, Kari Weil plumbs our thick entanglements with non-human animals as companions, as abjected others, as subjects of grief and mourning – those dense contact zones in which art and literature may well 'think' non-human animals better, or at least more patiently, than theory and philosophy. Anyone interested in love, life, and death across species will want to read this book."
– Cary Wolfe, author of Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and the Posthumanist Theory
"Kari Weil's book is a deeply felt and keenly thought engagement with key philosophical questions animating the exploding scholarly world of 'animal studies.' In this graciously written and eminently approachable text, Weil has created a book that will stimulate seasoned scholars and beginning students alike to take up the twenty-first century challenge of taking animals seriously across all realms of academia. This book belongs on bookshelves, and syllabi for courses in philosophy, cultural studies, anthropology, literature, ecology, animal science, and biology. It takes a very good scholar indeed to make such 'challenging issues underpinning our moral, aesthetic, and philosophical relations with animals seem so compelling and clear without in the least simplifying them. Highly recommended."
– Jane Desmond, author of Staging Tourism: Bodies on Display from Waikiki to Sea World
"A lively and compelling introduction to essential debates shaping posthumanistic animal theory today. Whether through ordinary expressions of grief at the death of pets or by extreme fantasies of animal liberation through extinction, Weil argues, the problems of animal representation are proving increasingly difficult to separate from those of representing people. With original readings and nuanced translations, Thinking Animals emphasizes French poststructuralist and material feminist theory as pivotal to this so-called animal turn in the twenty-first century."
– Susan McHugh, author of Animal Stories and Dog
"Providing an accessible overview and casting new eyes on familiar literature, Weil makes a significant contribution to animal studies and critical theory [...] Recommended."
– Chris Wilbert, Radical Philosophy
Preface: Thinking Animals
Part I: Why Animal Studies Now?
1. A Report on the Animal Turn
2. Seeing Animals
Part II: Pet Tales
3. Is a Pet an Animal? Domestication and Animal Agency
4. Gendered Subjects/Abject Objects: Man(n)’s Best Friend
5. Dog Love/W(o)olf Love
Part III: Grieving Animals
6. A Proper Death
7. Thinking and Unthinking Animal Death: Temple Grandin and J. M. Coetzee
Part IV: Ethical Bêtises
8. Animal Liberation or Shameless Freedom
“And Toto Too”: Animal Studies, Posthumanism, and Oz
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Kari Weil is University Professor of Letters at Wesleyan University. She has published widely on feminist theory; literary representations of gender (especially in France); the riding, breeding, and eating of horses in nineteenth-century France; and, more recently, on theories and representations of animal otherness and human-animal relations. Her course, "Animal Subjects," which she first taught at the California College of the Arts, won "Best Course Award" from the United States Humane Society.