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The Addressive Animal

The Addressive Animal

The Augustans and “Tyrant Custom”

(p.80) Chapter 3 The Addressive Animal
The Animal Claim
Tobias Menely
University of Chicago Press

This chapter turns to public and poetic texts that relate their performative capacity to effect a transformation in the sovereign order to the originary acts that establish symbolic law. It considers the remediation of creaturely voice, first in several periodical essays that, addressing a humanitarian public, identify tyrannical custom with sovereign “inhumanity,” and then in two canonical Augustan poems, Alexander Pope’s Windsor-Forest and James Thomson’s The Seasons. Poetic language redistributes symbolic authority either by concentrating the potential of creaturely substitution in personifying tropes or multiplying the addressees that establish the place, always still to come, of humanity. This chapter speculates that the introduction of the perspective of an implied witness, a third position in the communicative exchange between sovereign and subject, is a defining feature of public communication, which serves to recalibrate the thetic distribution, in Julia Kristeva’s terms, by which voices are accorded meaning.

Keywords:   James Thomson, The Seasons, Alexander Pope, Windsor-Forest, public sphere, remediation, hunting, humanitarianism, Julia Kristeva, poetry

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