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Electric Animal

Electric Animal: Toward a Rhetoric of Wildlife

Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Electric Animal
    Book Description:

    Akira Mizuta Lippit shows us the animal as a crucial figure in the definition of modernity—essential to developments in the natural sciences and technology, radical transformations in modern philosophy and literature, and the advent of psychoanalysis and the cinema._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6621-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Remembering Animals
    (pp. 1-26)

    “Everywhere animals disappear,” writes John Berger.¹ Or perhaps, everywhere one looks one is surrounded by the absence of animals. No longer a sign of nature’s abundance, animals now inspire a sense of panic for the earth’s dwindling resources. Spectral animals recede into the shadows of human consumption and environmental destruction. With the prosperity of human civilization and global colonization, ecospheres are vanishing, species are moving toward extinction, and the environment is sinking, one is told, into a state of uninhabitability. Arguably, modernity has cost existence its diversity, has strained the earth’s capacity to maintain life. It is a cliché of...

  5. 1 Philosophy and the Animal World
    (pp. 27-54)

    The scene of the crime is the fourth story of a house in Paris. The occupants have been brutally slain and the Parisian police are scrambling for answers. Under the heading “Extraordinary Murders,” theGazette des Tribunauxgives notice of the affair: a widow and her daughter, Madame and Mademoiselle L’Espanaye, have been found bludgeoned, mutilated, and partially dismembered—the daughter forced into the chimney, the mother thrown from the window. The domestic assault appears to have extended even to the house itself: “The apartment was in the wildest disorder—the furniture broken and thrown about in all directions.”¹ “To...

  6. 2 Afterthoughts on the Animal World: Heidegger to Nietzsche
    (pp. 55-73)

    The work of Martin Heidegger thematizes the idea of a world in danger. It also signals the place of the last philosopher’s last stand against the swelling tide of psychology and technology, two movements that contested the epistemological ground of philosophical discourse during the nineteenth century. Pressured by the existential crisis that the figure of the animal presents, Heidegger culminates the philosophical momentum that brought metaphysics to a violent confrontation with the twentieth century. Following the brief recapitulation of the philosophical tradition from Descartes to Hegel that led to Heidegger’s intervention, the discussion now turns to the question of the...

  7. 3 Evolutions: Natural Selection, Phenomenology, Psychoanalysis
    (pp. 74-100)

    As the discussion of animals moves from philosophy toward the registers of psychoanalysis, aesthetics, and critical theory, it is necessary to address the impact of Charles Darwin (1809–82) on the configuration of animals in Western thought. During the late nineteenth century, Darwin’s work profoundly altered the terms of philosophical, psychological, scientific, and sociological theory, causing a veritable reorganization of the epistemological order. And although earlier versions of evolutionary theory had already been in circulation prior to Darwin’s publications, the appearance ofOn the Origin of Speciesin 1859 andThe Descent of Manin 1871 initiated a polemic that...

  8. 4 The Wildside: Theory and Animality
    (pp. 101-134)

    The communicative powers of animal magnetism, which Josef Breuer and Freud emphasize in their analysis of hypnosis, hysteria, and the “splitting of the mind,”Studies on Hysteria(1893–95), can be said to lie at the origin of psychoanalysis. In this work, published as a complete volume in 1895, Breuer and Freud introduce a new category of consciousness—neurosis—to the discourse on subjectivity.¹ The authors assert in a “Preliminary Communication” (a phrase already haunted by the manifestations of a hysterical symptomatology, since for hysterics, all communication is, in some way, always preliminary) that “unconscious ideas” can produce physiological disturbances...

  9. 5 The Literary Animal: Carroll, Kafka, Akutagawa
    (pp. 135-161)

    Darwin’s supposition that languages are a type of dynamic organism and thus behave no differently from any other class of organic entities—that they struggle, evolve, and ultimately succumb to extinction—modifies the conventional view of language as humanity’s first acquisition. Languages are not just effects of humanity’s existence, Darwin argues, but they possess lives of their own. Darwin’s remarkable gesture appears to transport language from the register of artifice to that of nature. Languages, according to Darwin, like animals and plants, are consigned to the sequences of a morphological existence: life, struggle, selection, change, and death. Darwin’s vitalization of...

  10. 6 Animetaphors: Photography, Cryptonymy, Film
    (pp. 162-198)

    Because the differential system of language can refer to things or ideas that lie outside its referential chain, the semiology of language is haunted by a profound negativity. The system of language, which operates according to a dialectical logic, can posit (qua antithesis), concepts that elude its grasp. Things can be named, like Heidegger’s animal graphic, as negations of language. In the present context, the figure of the animal has come to occupy just such a negative space—one that language can point to without naming, subsume without securing. The capacity of language to point beyond its limits allows it...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 199-252)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-266)
  13. Index
    (pp. 267-286)