By Derek Ryan
From caged orangutans to roasted pig, from puppy education to horse phobias, from speaking bees to ruminating cows, Derek Ryan explores how animals are encountered in theoretical discourse. throughout 4 thematically organised chapters on 'Animals as Humans', 'Animal Ontology', 'Animal lifestyles' and 'Animal Ethics' he bargains prolonged discussions of Nietzsche, Freud, Lacan, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Deleuze, Singer, Nussbaum, Adams and Haraway between others, in addition to energetic readings of up to date literary texts through Carter, Coetzee, Auster and Foer. meant as a source for researchers, scholars, lecturers and all these drawn to human-animal relationships, Animal thought: A serious Introduction offers an available and authoritative account of the demanding situations and power in puzzling over and with animals.
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Extra info for Animal Theory: A Critical Introduction
Which she associates with her father and sister: ‘She did mind that and shook an obdurate head; she did not like her father’s hard, dry, imperative kisses, and endured them only for the sake of power. Sometimes Emma touched her cheek lightly with unparted lips. Lizzie would allow no more’ (389). When the feline protagonist appears, from a psychoanalytic perspective this tiger would act as a human substitute: either for the mother, where it could be seen as part of a ‘blissful pre-oedipal encounter, echoing the union between mother and child beyond the reach of the father and the paternal law’ (Müller-Wood 2004: 290); or alternatively for the father (the tiger’s tail is, after all, ‘thick as her father’s forearm’ ).
In ‘The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I Function’, Lacan begins with the fact that ‘the human child, at an age when he is for a short while, but for a while nevertheless, outdone by the chimpanzee in instrumental intelligence, can already recognize his own image as such in a mirror’ (2006b: 75). The experience of the mirror is markedly different for human infant and chimpanzee: this recognition ‘immediately gives rise in a child to a series of gestures in which he playfully experiences the relationship between the movements made in the image and the reflected environment, and between this virtual complex and the reality it duplicates’ – this reality being ‘the child’s own body, and the persons and even things around him’ (75).
Put differently, is there a way to disentangle anthropomorphism from anthropocentrism? Alternative Anthropomorphisms Many animal theorists now argue that it is important to remain open to the potential in anthropomorphism, and that closing down discussions, even when they are based on efforts to point out the limitations of human knowledge, leads to a sometimes inadvertent, sometimes wilful, ignorance of animality. Instead of always already aligning anthropomorphism with anthropocentrism, a rich debate has emerged, exemplified by the essays in Thinking with Animals: New Perspectives on Anthropomorphism, edited by Lorraine Daston and Gregg Mitman, about the potential for anthropomorphism to challenge human superiority and the rigid distinctions that are made between human and animal experience.