How can literary imagination help us engage with the lives of other
animals? The question represents one of the liveliest areas of
inquiry in the humanities, and Mark Payne seeks to answer it by
exploring the relationship between human beings and other animals
in writings from antiquity to the present. Ranging from ancient
Greek poets to modernists like Ezra Pound and William Carlos
Williams, Payne considers how writers have used verse to
communicate the experience of animal suffering, created analogies
between human and animal societies, and imagined the kind of
knowledge that would be possible if human beings could see
themselves as animals see them. The Animal Part also makes
substantial contributions to the emerging discourse of the
posthumanities. Payne offers detailed accounts of the tenuousness
of the idea of the human in ancient literature and philosophy and
then goes on to argue that close reading must remain a central
practice of literary study if posthumanism is to articulate its own
prehistory. For it is only through fine-grained literary
interpretation that we can recover the poetic thinking about
animals that has always existed alongside philosophical
constructions of the human. In sum, The Animal Part marks a
breakthrough in animal studies and offers a significant
contribution to comparative poetics.
University of Chicago Press
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