Gorgeous Beasts takes a fresh look at the place of animals in history and art. Refusing the traditional subordination of animals to humans, the essays gathered here examine a rich variety of ways animals contribute to culture: as living things, as scientific specimens, as food, weapons, tropes, and occasions for thought and creativity. History and culture set the terms for this inquiry. As history changes, so do the ways animals participate in culture.
Gorgeous Beasts offers a series of discontinuous but probing studies of the forms their participation takes. This collection presents the work of a wide range of scholars, critics, and thinkers from diverse disciplines: philosophy, literature, history, geography, economics, art history, cultural studies, and the visual arts. By approaching animals from such different perspectives, the essays in Gorgeous Beasts broaden the scope of animal studies to include specialists and nonspecialists alike, inviting readers from all backgrounds to consider the place of animals in history and art.
Combining provocative critical insights with arresting visual imagery, Gorgeous Beasts advances a challenging new appreciation of animals as co-inhabitants and co-creators of culture. Aside from the editors, the contributors are Dean Bavington, Ron Broglio, Mark Dion, Erica Fudge, Cecilia Novero, Harriet Ritvo, Nigel Rothfels, Sajay Samuel, and Pierre Serna.
"This innovative, accessible, and thorough collection addresses an admirable range of historical and geographical contexts to demonstrate that the human relationship with other species is complex and overdetermined, and that human systems of knowledge and representation are crucial for negotiating this uneven terrain. An essential teaching text, Gorgeous Beasts will find a welcome home in the HAS classrooms of many disciplines."
– Sherryl Vint, author of Bodies of Tomorrow: Technology, Subjectivity, Science Fiction
"With a multidisciplinary approach combining historical studies and the study of visual representations, with a period focus centered on the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but also reaching back to the Renaissance and forward to contemporary works, and with contributions from some of the most prominent and thought-provoking scholars in the field of animal studies, Gorgeous Beasts energetically advances the current conversation about the human uses of nonhuman animals. Several essays investigate and seek to remedy the lack of representation involved in past and present silences concerning the slaughter of animals, while others investigate the problematic representations of animals as creatures of the wild, objects of scientific study, trophies, or biomass to be harvested. The attention paid to the contemporary artists Daniel Spoerri and Mark Dion makes explicit the links between the historical analyses and our current situation. Raising provocative and important questions, this volume sets the terms for future studies of the representation of other animals by humans."
– Frank Palmeri, University of Miami
"This book introduces us to gorgeous beasts – creatures we yearn for, treasure, misunderstand, and mistreat. Enclosure-endangered Atlantic codfish, bloodhounds unleashed on the Maroon uprisings in Jamaica, taxidermied elephants that conferred secondhand majesty on trophy hunters, slither-painting snakes, even dog-skin gloves and civet-scented perfumes (those animal-made objects): all testify to our human co-construction of, with, and by animals. In the book's lush illustrations, the visual representation of animals has equal footing with their material and economic histories, and the result is a thought-provoking and sense-igniting treat."
– Susan Merrill Squier, author of Poultry Science, Chicken Culture: A Partial Alphabet and Liminal Lives: Imagining the Human at the Frontiers of Biomedicine
"Gorgeous Beasts is a gorgeous book. As the essays revel in the physicality of animal bodies in order to reveal why and how animals matter in history and art, so the volume celebrates the physical book. Extensively illustrated, expertly designed, and printed on sumptuous paper, it embodies the best of the exhibition catalogue and the scholarly text. Like a finely curated art exhibit, it speaks to the myriad and contradictory ways that animals matter through individual works that are a pleasure to behold, read, and contemplate."
– Amy Nelson, American Historical Review
"Edited by Joan B. Landes, Paula Young Lee, and Paul Youngquist, Gorgeous Beasts brings together nine essays by some of the most sophisticated voices within animal studies to explore the histories and desires shaping human encounters with other animals, both alive and dead [...] Gorgeous Beasts asks all the right questions. Its animal bodies are provocative, unpredictable, and potent. Meticulously researched and eloquently argued with clear, accessible language, the essays incite a knowing that grows beyond the page and into our daily lives with other animals."
– Rachel Poliquin, Humanimalia
"The essays in this book explore the important, sometimes ambiguous roles that animals play in human culture."
– E. K. Mix, Choice
List of Illustrations
Joan B. Landes, Paula Young Lee, and Paul Youngquist
1 Animal Subjects: Between Nature and Invention in Buffon’s Natural History Illustrations
Joan B. Landes
2 Renaissance Animal Things
3 The Cujo Effect
4 On Vulnerability: Studies from Life That Ought Not to Be Copied
5 The Rights of Man and the Rights of Animality at the End of the Eighteenth Century
Translated by Vito Caiati and Joan B. Landes
6 Calling the Wild
7 Trophies and Taxidermy
8 Fishing for Biomass
Sajay Samuel and Dean Bavington
9 Daniel Spoerri’s Carnival of Animals
A Conversation with the Artist Mark Dion
Joan B. Landes, Paula Young Lee, and Paul Youngquist
About the Contributors
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Joan B. Landes is Walter L. and Helen Ferree Professor of Early Modern History and Women’s Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. Paula Young Lee is an independent scholar and the editor of Meat, Modernity, and the Rise of the Slaughterhouse (2008). Paul Youngquist is Professor of English at the University of Colorado.