Animal Theory: A Critical Introduction by Derek Ryan

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 full of life readings of up to date literary texts by means of Carter, Coetzee, Auster and Foer. meant as a source for researchers, scholars, lecturers and all these attracted to human-animal relationships, Animal concept: A serious Introduction presents an obtainable and authoritative account of the demanding situations and capability in wondering and with animals.

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Following animal figures as they appear in psychoanalytic theory is additionally an important task for animal theorists given that, as Nicholas Ray has recently commented, ‘the so-called “question of the animal” still has a relatively limited circulation within psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic studies’, with the relationship between humans and animals yet to come under the careful scrutiny that the wealth of appearances of animals in various theoreti- a n i m a l s a s h u m a n s 31 cal texts and records of clinical cases demands (2012: 41; 2014).

But can the experiences of animals ever be theorised without being appropriated by human systems of thought? This brings the question of anthropomorphism, and whether it can or should be avoided, to the forefront of animal theory. The challenge is neatly laid out by the feminist theorist Luce Irigaray in her essay ‘Animal Compassion’: How can we talk about them? How can we talk to them? These familiars of our existence inhabit another world, a world that I do not know. Sometimes I can observe something in it, but I do not inhabit it from the inside – it remains foreign to me.

Harrison Matthews in Proceedings of the Royal Society, which showed that the ovulation of a female pigeon (which doesn’t happen when isolated from other members of its species) ‘is triggered by a female pigeon’s sight of the specific form of a member of its own species, to the exclusion of any other sensory form of perception, and without that member having to be male’. Lacan adds that ‘what is more remarkable still is that the mere sight by an animal of its own image in a mirror suffices to trigger ovulation within two and a half months’ (154).

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