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Colourfully described by early natural historians as the 'fastest, hairiest, most lascivious, and most melancholy' of mammals (and also one that changed sex, never closed its eyes, and occasionally grew horns) the hare is no less remarkable for its actual behaviour and capacities than for the intriguing ways in which it has been imagined and exploited throughout history.
"Hare" examines how this animal has been described, symbolized and visually depicted, as well as utilized for its fur, flesh, other body parts and exceptional speed. Tracking its quarry from ancient Egypt, where a hare hieroglyph signified existence itself, to the serial hare works of Joseph Beuys, who once notoriously declared that 'I am not a human being, I am a hare', "Hare" finds its subject in many surprising places and forms, in positions of both unusual prominence and arcane marginality: from Crucifixion scenes, Buddhist lore and Algonquin creation myths, to witch trials, treatises on logic, contemporary poetry and an art installation in a Dutch brothel. It is the principal subject of the first ever hunting treatise, 'king of all venery' for Renaissance theorists of the hunt; and it appears in the first known description of a still life painting, in the first signed and dated picture of a single animal, and in early medicine where it was credited with having the most curative properties of any 'beaste'.
The first monograph on the subject for thirty-five years, and richly illustrated, "Hare" combines the most recent natural history with an eclectic account of the animal's symbolic values. Packed with detail but accessibly written, the book will be of interest to art historians and literary critics; to those for and opposed to hunting; to anyone intrigued by the history of human/animal relationships; and, to both the general and the lagophile reader alike.
Simon Carnell is a freelance writer, reviewer, translator and poet. He has reviewed for and published poems in many publications including the TLS, Sunday Times, London Magazine, Spectator, New Statesman, Guardian, London Review of Books, Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Modern Painters, London Magazine, and Oxford Poetry, and is the author of 'Notes of Several Experiments' (2003).