Electric Animal: Toward a Rhetoric of Wildlife

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U of Minnesota Press, 2000 - Philosophy - 286 pages
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Differentiation from animals helped to establish the notion of a human being, but the disappearance of animals now threatens that identity. This is the argument underlying Electric Animal, a probing exploration of the figure of the animal in modern culture. 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.

Moving beyond the dialectical framework that has traditionally bound animal and human being, Electric Animal raises a series of questions regarding the idea of animality in Western thought. Can animals communicate? Do they have consciousness? Are they aware of death? By tracing questions such as these through a wide range of texts by writers ranging from Friedrich Nietzsche to Jacques Derrida, Sigmund Freud to Vicki Heame, Lewis Carroll to Franz Kafka, and Sergei Eisenstein to Gilles Deleuze, Lippit arrives at a remarkable thesis, revealing an extraordinary logical consensus in Western thought: animals do not have language and hence cannot die.

The animal has, accordingly, haunted thought as a form of spectral and undead being. Lippit demonstrates how, in the late nineteenth century; this phantasmic concept of animal being reached the proportions of an epistemological crisis, engendering the disciplines and media of psychoanalysis, modern literature, and cinema, among others. Against the prohibitive logic of Western philosophy, these fields opened a space for rethinking animality. Technology, usually thought of in opposition to nature, came to serve as therepository for an unmournable animality -- a kind of vast wildlife museum.

A highly original work that charts new territory in current debates over language and mortality, subjectivity and technology, Electric Animal brings to light fundamental questions about the status of representation -- of the animal and of ourselves -- in the age of biomechanical reproduction.

  

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Contents

I
1
II
3
III
27
IV
55
V
74
VI
101
VII
135
VIII
162
IX
187
X
199
XI
253
XII
267
Copyright

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Page 256 - Suddenly the window opened of its own accord, and I was terrified to see that some white wolves were sitting on the big walnut tree in front of the window.

References to this book

Animals in Film
Jonathan Burt
Limited preview - 2002
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About the author (2000)

Akira Mizuta Lippit is Professor of Cinematic Arts, Comparative Literature, and East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Southern California. He is on the board of Film Quarterly, and is author of "Atomic Light (Shadow Optics)" and "Electric Animal: Toward a Rhetoric of Wildlife".

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