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The Animal Part

Human and Other Animals in the Poetic Imagination

The Animal Part

Human and Other Animals in the Poetic Imagination

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.

160 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2010

Ancient Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory


“Mark Payne has crafted a durable, thoughtful, short book, one that those interested in the writers he views should amble, swim, hike, or navigate a long way in order to read.”

Rain Taxi

"There is much to treasure and mull over in this book—it is a brave contribution to an exciting body of work and a stimulating assertion of the continued rewards of studying classical literature, even, and especially, in a post-humanist era."

Bryn Mawr Classical Review

“A powerful and very individual exploration of how ancient and modern authors have used the relationship between humans and animals as a central part of their art-works.”

Classics for All Reviews

“Eclectic and intriguing, The Animal Part urges us to take seriously literary works that create imaginative identifications of staged encounters with the nonhuman world. Considerations of human relations to animals could not be more timely, and Mark Payne adds a powerful and original voice to the discussion.”

Robert Pogue Harrison, Stanford University

The Animal Part is like a conversation with a learned and perceptive friend. In a very original manner, Mark Payne contemplates human beings’ engagement with their own status as animals among other animals and considers the ways in which poetry enables a privileged access to an imaginative, imaginary inhabiting of the species being of others. I enjoyed this moving and powerful meditative essay on human being immensely.”

Page duBois, University of California, San Diego

“A fascinating and very well-written book on aspects of representations of animal/human relations that have been little studied.”

Susan Stewart, Princeton University

Table of Contents


Introduction. Imagining Animals

Part One. The Abject Animal

1. The Beast in Pain: Abjection and Aggression in Archilochus and William Carlos Williams

2. Destruction and Creation: The Work of Men and Animals in Gustave Flaubert, Gerald Manley Hopkins, and Ezra Pound

Part Two. Becoming Something Else

3. Beyond the Pale: Joining the Society of Animals in Aristophanes, Herman Melville, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline

4. Changing Bodies: Being and Becoming an Animal in Semonides, Ovid, and H. P. Lovecraft

Epilogue. I Do Not Know What It Is I Am Like




Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies: Warren-Brooks Award

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