Animal Alterity: Science Fiction and the Question of the Animal
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BeschreibungUses readings of science fiction texts to explore the centrality of animals for our ways of thinking about human. This title argues that we are better able to perceive options for a transformed politics if we perceive our various material relations with non-human animals within a deeper understanding of the functions of the category 'animal'.
InhaltsverzeichnisContents Acknowledgements Introduction. Animal Alterity: Science Fiction and Human-Animal Studies 1. Always-Already Meat: The Human-Animal Boundary and Ethics 2. The Mirror Test: Humans, Animals and Sentience 3. The Animal Responds: Language, Animals and Science Fiction 4. 'The Female Is Somewhat Duller': Gender and Animals 5. Sapien Orientalism: Animals, Colonialism, Science Fiction 6. Existing for Their Own Reasons: Animal Aliens 7. A Rope over an Abyss: Humans as Animals 8. The Modern Epimetheus: Animals and/as Technology Conclusion. 'Other Fashionings of Life': Science Fiction, Human-Animal Studies and the Future of Subjectivity Notes Works Cited Index
PortraitSherryl Vint is Associate Professor Department of English Language and Literature, Brock University. She is the author of Bodies of Tomorrow: Technology, Subjectivity, and Science Fiction University of Toronto Press, 2006) and co-editor of the journal of Science Fiction Film and Television published by Liverpool University Press).
PressestimmenAnimal Alterity is an engaging, intelligent study which is perceptively and accessibly theorised, and refreshingly innovative. -- Peter Wright This is an intriguing and enlightening book, more academic but at-times much less approachable than Shaw's The Animal Fable in Science Fiction and Fantasy (reviewed above). Here, the focus is on thinking about what it means 'to be human' and how thinking about animals shapes our thinking about being human. The author's concern is that animals, "once central to human quotidian life, have steadily disappeared from human experience with the rise of modernity, whose processes of industrialisation, urbanisation, and commodification have affected aimal lives as much as human ones. Twenty-first-century society is no less dependent upon animal products than was the seventeenth," the crucial difference being that animals are more "increasingly invisible" as agricultural processes become more industrial, sanitized and technologically distanced from our daily life (1). Many of the sources included are the same as those referenced by Shaw, but to different effect. For example, Shaw referred to Capek's War with the Newts (1936) as a satire on the rise of Nazism in Germany. Here, the focus is on the 'otherness' of the newts, how 'they' are not 'us,' and are therefore available for capture, enslavement, exploitation, and experimentation, much as the Jews were so treated once they were officially considered 'subhuman.' Conversely, the third chapter, "The Animal Responds," discusses the various issues of interspecies communication not considered in Shaw's book. A particularly brilliant example is the discussion of Ian Wilson's The Jonah Kit (1975), in which scientists attempt to project human thought processes into the minds of a sperm whale, only to find that human language proves grossly inadequate to express and explore the perceived experiences. The results do not rule out the possibility of such interspecies communication so much as they warn us "to be attentive to differences and what they signify" (81). We may be biological cousins, but we are distant cousins. Chapter 5, "Sapien Orientalism," discusses the consideration of the 'other' in terms of colonialism and ineraction with other races and species in our history, in our science fiction, and perhaps in our future. Other chapters deal with issues of gender, domination and injustice. This book explores in depth, with amazing insight and originality, animals as life forms truly alien to ourselves and our experiences, and then humans as animals ourselves. It alternately avoids and explores our arrogant self-definition of what it means 'to be human.' Shaw's book focuses on animal narratives and their use in characterizing or lampooning humanity. This book focuses on the fundamental place of humanity in the world, including responsibility for ethical decision-making and a recognition of our ability to influence the ecosphere to good and bad, thus affecting all species of life regardless of our perception of their presence and importance in our daily experience. The dependence of the species is mutual. Notes are included, by chapter, at the end. They are well-written and refer the reader to additional material for study. The Works Cited list is extensive and wide-ranging. The index is comprehensive and user-friendly. This book is nicely produced, well-edited and comprehensive, reflecting a great deal of effort by the author to collect and synthesize the sometimes disparate material. It is a bit pricey for the average private collection, but it is definitely recommended for a university research library. -- Christopher Basnett SFRA Review 295 Winter 2011 An intriguing and enlightening book. Nicely produced, well-edited and comprehensive, reflecting a great deal of effort by the author to collect and synthesize the sometimes disparate material ... it is definitely recommended for a university research library. -- Christopher Basnett SFRA Review 295 Winter 2011 In bringing together science fiction (sf) and human-animal studies (HAS), Sherryl Vint is faced with significant challenges: she has two audiences, not one, and they seem at first to be non-overlapping audiences with incompatible interests. If asked to suggest some key elements of sf, a casual reader or viewer would likely point to spacecraft, robots, advanced weaponry, alien species, and places far from Earth. Someone unfamiliar with HAS, asked to generalize about the field's assumptions, might emphasize animal rights, love for pets, and maybe liberating animals from research labs. It's to Vint's credit, therefore, that Animal Alterity: Science Fiction and the Question of the Animal makes it seem entirely logical that one should read science fiction with an eye to thinking about animals, and about how to live ethically with them on this planet. For those more familiar with sf, of course, it's no surprise to hear that Vint understands that one of sf's cultural functions is to allow the rethinking of life on Earth. Regular HAS readers, too, are perfectly aware that HAS isn't purely about nonhuman animals. Still, it's safe to say that HAS readers tend not to read a lot of science fiction, and that there aren't many sf fans committed to HAS (with the signal exception, of course, of Donna Haraway, whom Vint cites regularly here to good effect). One of the great strengths of Animal Alterity is that Vint has approached different aspects of HAS as distinct threads within a single broad discourse. Her decision to address each HAS thread in relation to a different set of sf texts means that in effect, Animal Alterity works both as eight separate studies (humans perceived as animals, for example, or alien imperialism) as well as a coherent analysis of the interrelations between HAS and sf. As she notes late in the volume, "Animals in sf suggest many themes, but perhaps most promising is [the] aspiration that humans might interact with an intelligence other than our own and be transformed by it, a recurring dream of sf." At heart, Vint's concern is with subjectivity, and the myriad ways that it can be imagined, ignored, or unrecognized. Humans imagine that other humans have subjectivities like their own, but it's more difficult to imagine subjectivity in non-human beings: the question of the alien thus reflects naturally on the question of the animal (cf. Derrida and Agamben), because aliens could conceivably have the same difficulty imagining our subjectivities that we have imagining those of aliens or non-human animals. Vint quotes Karen Traviss' human character Shan Frankland, for example, who in City of Pearl remarks, "every time I look at something that isn't human, I have to ask myself who's behind the eyes, not what." Shan's insight comes not from her experiences with alien species, but from learning sign language and retrospectively recognizing that a gorilla she'd encountered in an Earth research lab had been repetitively signalling to her, "Please help me. Please help me. Please..." Keeping this haunting moment in mind, Shan manages to productively complicate her encounters with several alien species. The selection of texts for Animal Alterity is intriguing, though somewhat unclear. Vint regularly discusses 1930s pulp fiction, emphasizing the first decade of Amazing Stories, and these short stories provide fascinating enough material that one could easily imagine a powerfully focused study of pre-WW2 science fiction and animality. She also, though, looks at an assortment of novels from across the history of science fiction. The connection between the 1930s stories and the (mostly later) novels goes unarticulated. While Vint looks at some canonical writers (such as HG Wells and Olaf Stapledon), many writers have a less clear place in sf's multivalent trajectory. One of the texts Vint finds most intriguing, for example, is Karen Traviss' six-volume Wess'har Wars series (of which the above-noted City of Pearl is the first volume), and Vint makes a solid case for the complexity with which Traviss portrays assorted species' ecological politics in the novels: Traviss, however, is best-known for her many novels set in the Star Wars universe, and for others based on the video games Halo and Gears of War. As valuable as it is for readers to be exposed to a diversity of texts, and as unhelpful in some ways that the idea of canonicity is for sf, Vint would have been well advised to discuss more openly her criteria, and more fully than she briefly does in her introduction, because there's no obvious guiding principle determining the selection. Similarly, there's not a lot of engagement with critical material on the texts. Since Vint's book is more theoretically than critically inclined, and since there's been comparatively little academic analysis of science fiction outside a narrowly conceived canon, it's not unreasonable for Vint to restrict her engagement with criticism. Still, sf readers have long maintained a broad, public conversation (such as in the letters section of Amazing Stories), and some engagement with that readerly culture might have helped, such as with Vint's speculations about how some stories could have been read against the grain at the time of their initial publication. In sum, Sherryl Vint has done seriously valuable work in Animal Alterity: Science Fiction and the Question of the Animal, illustrating how the HAS lens, and by extension other strands of the ecocritical mode, can illuminate texts not normally associated with environmentalism. While her text selection principles could profitably have been clarified, and her engagement with sf readers could have been more detailed, Vint models here just how effective a careful, environmentally minded literary reading can be. -- RICHARD PICKARD The Goose, Issue 10, Winter 2012 Sherryl Vint has done seriously valuable work in Animal Alterity: Science Fiction and the Question of the Animal, illustrating how the HAS lens, and by extension other strands of the ecocritical mode, can illuminate texts not normally associated with environmentalism. While her text selection principles could profitably have been clarified, and her engagement with sf readers could have been more detailed, Vint models here just how effective a careful, environmentally minded literary reading can be. The Goose, Issue 10, Winter 2012
Untertitel: 'Liverpool Science Fiction Text'. Sprache: Englisch.
Verlag: LIVERPOOL UNIV PR
Erscheinungsdatum: Dezember 2013
Seitenanzahl: 269 Seiten