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Picturing the Beast. Animals, Identity and Representation

Baker, Steve

33 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0719033772 / ISBN 13: 9780719033773
Published by Manchester University, Manchester, UK, 1993
Used Condition: Fine Hardcover
From Valley Books (Amherst, MA, U.S.A.)

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242pp. Numerous photos and illustrations. Gray cloth binding. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 055859

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Picturing the Beast. Animals, Identity and ...

Publisher: Manchester University, Manchester, UK

Publication Date: 1993

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine

About this title


This work sets out to tackle three main questions. First, why should it be that the animal, frequently conceived as the archetypal cultural "other", plays such a potent and vital role in the symbolic ocnstruction of human identity in such a variety of contemporary instances? Of course, if representation of the animal can be used to make almost any kind of statement about humans and human identity, it might reasonably be asked to what extent the animal constitutes a meaningful connecting theme at all. Part of the book's purpose, however, is precisely to question and to demythologize the idea of animal imagery as a "natural" resource for saying-things-about-humans. Secondly, what is the realtion of these kinds of cultural representations to the circumstances of actual living animals in that same culture, and what can the animal rights movement learn from this evidence in its attempt to develop and promote a less contemptuous and condescending attitude to animals throughout the culture? Thirdly, is the creation of a more "positive" image for animals necessarily the most effective way forward here, or do other more oblique tactics for bringing about change in public attitudes need to be explored? The greater part of the book is necessarily concerned with that first immense question of how animals figure in our thinking about human identity, but it has been the other two questions which have provided much of the motivation for trying to answer it. There is no very obvious reason why the destabilizing of entrenched stereotypes of human identity resulting from the post-structuralist strategy of "decentering the subject" might not be made to work, indirectly at least, to the animals' advantage. Inn the end it should not simply be a matter of our studying what animals already signify in the culture but rather, through a benevolent manipulation, of exploring what animals might yet be made to signify.


"A pleasure to read as well as being a substantial work of scholarship." -- Andrew Johnson, Environmental Values "Immensely accessible ... Baker's study is witty, learned, sophisticated, and direct." -- Norman Bryson, editor of Visual Culture: Images of Interpretation "The continued value of Picturing the Beast lies in Baker's insistence that we consider animals more carefully, even when their appearance does not seem immediately significant (such as in children's literature, cartoon strips, advertisements, and news stories about politicians), that we ask questions about why animals appear the way they do, and that we think hard about how they might be imagined differently." -- Molly H. Mullin, Anthrozos

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