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 existence' and 'Animal Ethics' he deals prolonged discussions of Nietzsche, Freud, Lacan, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Deleuze, Singer, Nussbaum, Adams and Haraway between others, in addition to energetic readings of latest literary texts by way of Carter, Coetzee, Auster and Foer. meant as a source for researchers, scholars, lecturers and all these attracted to human-animal relationships, Animal thought: A severe Introduction presents an obtainable and authoritative account of the demanding situations and strength in puzzling over and with animals.
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Additional info for Animal Theory: A Critical Introduction
One way to read the encounter would be as a kind of case study akin to the work of Freud or Klein. At the beginning of the story the young child sneaks out one night from a house (that was more like ‘a slum’) and eventually makes her way to a a n i m a l s a s h u m a n s 43 circus that is in town. There, animality and sexuality are contained in close proximity, evident when Lizzie is assaulted by a man who ‘took firm hold of her right hand and brought it tenderly up between his squatting thighs’ (1996b: 383; 389).
The animal may have some (restricted) level of consciousness and self-awareness, but it remains in a natural relation to the image. In contrast, the infant experiences a ‘transformation’ which ‘situates the agency known as the ego’ before entering the social field – that is, the infant splits from nature in experiencing ‘an organic inadequacy of his natural reality’ (2006b: 76). Discussing ‘The Mirror Stage’ in The Beast and the Sovereign, Jacques Derrida reflects on how, when it was first published, Lacan’s paper offered hope for a radical displacement of the human/animal binary by taking ‘into account a specular function in the sexualization of the animal’, something ‘quite rare for the time’.
He outlines three systems of thought, what he calls ‘three great pictures of the universe’: namely the ‘animistic (or mythological)’, the ‘religious’ and the ‘scientific’ (77). In the animistic phase, where spiritual agencies are assigned to animals and the natural world more widely, humans ‘ascribe omnipotence to themselves’. At the religious phase ‘they transfer it to the gods’, but in doing so they ‘reserve the power of influencing the gods in a variety of ways according to their wishes’. The third, and ongoing, scientific phase, however, ‘no longer affords any room for human omnipotence; men have acknowledged their smallness’, even though ‘the primitive belief’ in human mastery persists to some extent and creates the illusion of human power (88).
Animal Theory: A Critical Introduction by Derek Ryan