The Animal PartHuman and Other Animals in the Poetic Imagination

The Animal PartHuman and Other Animals in the Poetic Imagination

Mark Payne

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226650845

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book explores the imaginative identification with animals enabled by aggression and the narcissistic aversion from them manifested as destructiveness. It explores the attraction to the society of other animals that finds expression in stories about human beings who try to join them, and the affects that cluster around the possibility that the human body is susceptible in various ways to becoming animal. The book looks at two different kinds of attempt to imagine the removal of the boundary separating human beings from other animals. A discussion is presented of the correlation between articulate utterance and social complexity in Aristotle's zoological and political works, which leaves open the possibility that birds may be capable of a degree of political organization comparable to that of human beings. The book contrasts Aristotle's curiosity about the social lives of other animals with Aristophanes' Birds, Herman Melville's Moby Dick, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline's Rigadoon, in all of which isolated individuals who have fallen out of human society experience some form of fascination with the social groups of animals they discover beyond its confines.