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.
"Mark Payne has crafted a durable, thoughtful, short book, one that those interested in the writers he views should amble, swim, hike, or navigate a long way in order to read."
- Rain Taxi
"There is much to treasure and mull over in this book – it is a brave contribution to an exciting body of work and a stimulating assertion of the continued rewards of studying classical literature, even, and especially, in a post-humanist era."
- Bryn Mawr, Classical Review
Introduction. Imagining Animals
Part One. The Abject Animal
1. The Beast in Pain: Abjection and Aggression in Archilochus and William Carlos Williams
2. Destruction and Creation: The Work of Men and Animals in Gustave Flaubert, Gerald Manley Hopkins, and Ezra Pound
Part Two. Becoming Something Else
3. Beyond the Pale: Joining the Society of Animals in Aristophanes, Herman Melville, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline
4. Changing Bodies: Being and Becoming an Animal in Semonides, Ovid, and H. P. Lovecraft
Epilogue. I Do Not Know What It Is I Am Like
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Mark Payne is associate professor in the Department of Classics and the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Theocritus and the Invention of Fiction.