The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon

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University of Chicago Press, Nov 1, 1998 - Nature - 321 pages
2 Reviews
For animals that have been dead millions of years, dinosaurs are extraordinarily pervasive in our everyday lives. Appearing in ads, books, movies, museums, television, toy stores, and novels, they continually fascinate both adults and children. How did they move from natural extinction to pop culture resurrection? What is the source of their powerful appeal? Until now, no one has addressed this question in a comprehensive way. In this lively and engrossing exploration of the animal's place in our lives, W.J.T. Mitchell shows why we are so attached to the myth and the reality of the "terrible lizards."

Mitchell aims to trace the cultural family tree of the dinosaur, and what he discovers is a creature of striking flexibility, linked to dragons and mammoths, skyscrapers and steam engines, cowboys and Indians. In the vast territory between the cunning predators of Jurassic Park and the mawkishly sweet Barney, from political leviathans to corporate icons, from paleontology to Barnum and Bailey, Mitchell finds a cultural symbol whose plurality of meaning and often contradictory nature is emblematic of modern society itself. As a scientific entity, the dinosaur endured a near-eclipse for over a century, but as an image it is enjoying its widest circulation. And it endures, according to Mitchell, because it is uniquely malleable, a figure of both innovation and obsolescence, massive power and pathetic failure—the totem animal of modernity.

Drawing unforeseen and unusual connections at every turn between dinosaurs real and imagined, The Last Dinosaur Book is the first to delve so deeply, so insightfully, and so enjoyably into our modern dino-obsession.



  

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The last dinosaur book: the life and times of a cultural icon

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Dinosaurs may no longer roam the earth, but they are far from extinct in public consciousness. They thrive in books, movies, cartoons, and even advertisements. Their images are so pervasive and their ... Read full review

Review: The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon

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Dull. Read full review

Contents

Reptilicus erectus
2
Big Fierce Extinct
10
A Stegosaurus Made of Money
15
The End of Dinosaurology
21
The Last Thunder Horse West of
26
Mississippi
27
The Newt World Order
32
As Told by Himself
41
Schizosaur
141
Dinosaurs Moralized
145
PaleOntology or Its Not Easy Being Green
147
Potlatch and Purity
153
Diplodocus carnegii
157
Totems and Bones
163
Indiana Jones and Barnum Bones
165
Worlds Well Lost
169

Seeing Saurians
48
Sorting Species
57
Monsters and Dinomania
65
Big MacDino
70
The Totem Animal of Modernity
77
The Way of Dragons
87
Dry Bones
95
On the Evolution of Images
103
Thomas Jefferson Paleontologist
111
Frames Skeletons Constitutions
116
The Victorian Dinosaur
124
Coming to America
129
Bones for Darwins Bulldog
137
2g Bringing Down Baby
175
Miners Canary or Trojan Horse?
183
The Age of Reptiles
187
The Hundred Story Beast
205
Structure Energy Information
207
Catastrophe Entropy Chaos
210
3s The Age of Biocybernetic Reproduction
215
Carnosaurs and Consumption
221
Paleoart
265
Notes
285
Selected Bibliography
298
Acknowledgments
307
Copyright

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About the author (1998)

W. J. T. Mitchell is the Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, the Department of Art History, and the College at the University of Chicago. He is also coeditor of the journal Critical Inquiry.

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