New swag from Columbia University Press!

June 14th, 2012 11:14 am by Kelly Garbato

2012-06-12 - Books from Columbia U - 0011

The nice folks at Columbia University Press recently sent me not one, but two new books on human animal studies: Animals and the Human Imagination: A Companion to Animal Studies, edited by Aaron Gross and Anne Vallely and Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now? by Kari Weil. They both look rather interesting, though I think it’s Kari Weil who will get bumped to the top of my towering book pile. Under the likes of Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. Le Guin, that is. (Hey, it’s summer! The season of bottomless margaritas and light reading!)

Animals and the Human Imagination: A Companion to Animal Studies
Edited by Aaron Gross and Anne Vallely; Foreword by Jonathan Safran Foer and Epilogue by Wendy Doniger

Paper, 392 pages, 24 halftones, 1 tables
ISBN: 978-0-231-15297-6
$29.50 / £20.50

Human beings have long imagined their subjectivity, ethics, and ancestry with and through animals, yet not until the mid-twentieth century did contemporary thought reflect critically on animals’ significance in human self-conception. Thinkers such as French philosopher Jacques Derrida, South African novelist J. M. Coetzee, and American theorist Donna Haraway have initiated rigorous inquiries into the question of the animal, now blossoming in a number of directions. It is no longer strange to say that if animals did not exist, we would have to invent them.

This interdisciplinary and cross-cultural collection reflects the growth of animal studies as an independent field and the rise of “animality” as a critical lens through which to analyze society and culture, on a par with race and gender. Essays consider the role of animals in the human imagination and the imagination of the human; the worldviews of indigenous peoples; animal-human mythology in early modern China; and political uses of the animal in postcolonial India. They engage with the theoretical underpinnings of the animal protection movement, representations of animals in children’s literature, depictions of animals in contemporary art, and the philosophical positioning of the animal from Aristotle to Derrida. The strength of this companion lies in its timeliness and contextual diversity, which makes it essential reading for students and researchers while further developing the parameters of the discipline.

About the Author

Aaron S. Gross is a professor of theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego and holds a MTS from Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He co-chairs the American Academy of Religion’s Animals and Religion Group and has played a leading role in a wide variety of national and international animal-welfare campaigns since the mid-1990s. He founded the nonprofit group Farm Forward in 2007.

Anne Vallely is a professor of religious studies at the University of Ottawa. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, and her research focuses on the anthropology of South Asian religiosity, especially that of Jainism, and on the symbolic construction of human/non-human boundaries across cultures. She is the author of Guardians of the Transcendent: An Ethnography of a Jain Acetic Community.

Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of Eating Animals, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and Everything is Illuminated, all international bestsellers.

Wendy Doniger is Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago and a member of the Committee on Social Thought. Her books include The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth; Dreams, Illusions, and Other Realities; Other Peoples’ Myths; The Cave of Echoes; and the English-language edition of Yves Bonnefoy’s Mythologies.

Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now?
Kari Weil

Paper, 216 pages,
ISBN: 978-0-231-14809-2
$27.50 / £19.00

Kari Weil provides a critical introduction to the field of animal studies as well as an appreciation of its thrilling acts of destabilization. Examining real and imagined confrontations between human and nonhuman animals, she charts the presumed lines of difference between human beings and other species and the personal, ethical, and political implications of those boundaries.

Weil’s considerations recast the work of such authors as Kafka, Mann, Woolf, and Coetzee, and such philosophers as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze, Agamben, Cixous, and Hearne, while incorporating the aesthetic perspectives of such visual artists as Bill Viola, Frank Noelker, and Sam Taylor-Wood and the “visual thinking” of the autistic animal scientist Temple Grandin. She addresses theories of pet keeping and domestication; the importance of animal agency; the intersection of animal studies, disability studies, and ethics; and the role of gender, shame, love, and grief in shaping our attitudes toward animals. Exposing humanism’s conception of the human as a biased illusion, and embracing posthumanism’s acceptance of human and animal entanglement, Weil unseats the comfortable assumptions of humanist thought and its species-specific distinctions.

About the Author

Kari Weil is University Professor of Letters at Wesleyan University. She has published widely on feminist theory; literary representations of gender (especially in France); the riding, breeding, and eating of horses in nineteenth-century France; and, more recently, on theories and representations of animal otherness and human-animal relations. Her course, “Animal Subjects,” which she first taught at the California College of the Arts, won “Best Course Award” from the United States Humane Society.

Some of you might also be interested in a recent debate on animal and plant ethics between Gary Francione and Michael Marder, hosted by Columbia University on its blog:

Today we are featuring part one of three of a debate between Gary Francione, author of Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, and several other titles, and Michael Marder, author of the forthcoming Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life. You can find part two of the debate here, and part three here.

The debate and the questions were inspired by Michael Marder’s controversial New York Times op-eds Is Plant Liberation on the Menu? and If Peas Can Talk, Should We Eat Them? which generated a variety of responses from animal right advocates, philosophers, and others.

I haven’t checked out the series myself. Like I said: Summer! Alcoholic drinks! Zombie anthologies!

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