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Destruction and Creation

Destruction and Creation

The Work of Men and Animals in Gustave Flaubert, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Ezra Pound

(p.59) Chapter Two Destruction and Creation
The Animal Part
Mark Payne
University of Chicago Press

This chapter looks at aggression toward animals, and the forms of human self-understanding this aggression occludes. It considers the relationship between aggression and ontological narcissism in fictions of unlimited destructiveness, arguing that these fictions are versions of the myth of Satanism, in which hatred of other kinds of life than one's own grounds the desire to destroy them. The chapter examines some accounts of poetic labor that fashion an escape from such narcissism in the acknowledgment of continuity between the work of poets and the work of other animals. Narrative texts by Flaubert and Milton are presented, and an Aristotelian concept of mythos is used to recoup from them a species-level reflection on human behavior. It is stated that while Aristotle is less explicit than he might be about “the epistemological assumptions of his inquiry into the art of poetry,” his argument in the Poetics that fictional narratives instantiate general truths of human behavior is continuous with his understanding that the human being is one kind of political animal among others.

Keywords:   aggression, ontological narcissism, animals, Satanism, mythos

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