By R. Malamud
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Additional info for An Introduction to Animals and Visual Culture
After being warned of the tentative and limited visibility, we proceed through the poem to encounter a few brief but tantalizing cues that make the reader want to visualize the animal. The jellyfish fluctuates. (How interesting – what is that like? Like a chameleon changing colors? Like a tadpole or caterpillar transforming into a frog or butterfly? ) Moore visualizes the jellyfish as a charm, which is compelling: I want a charm! What does it charm? How? What magical powers may lurk in this charm?
I draw near. I want to touch, to take, to own. But in the poem’s peripeteia, the animal quivers. It moves in a way that scares the reader, as many animals like bats, crickets, moths, and pouncing tigers frighten people with their movements. A bat’s or jellyfish’s nonhuman, suprahuman forms of movement demonstrate our inferiority to these animals, our inadequacy in chasing them, or in escaping from them. Quivers and pounces remind us that we are not like them, and they are not like us. Our modes of locomotion may be less potent, less versatile, than theirs.
Animals are intensely present in our cultural imagination – “Animals are good to think,” as Claude Lévi-Strauss put it2 (think about; think with; think through), and we have lately being thinking them voraciously. One might suppose that thinking them voraciously is less immediately harmful to them than, say, eating or hunting or vivisecting them voraciously, but I suggest that it is not, because in our world the way people think animals affects their fate dramatically. The conceptions and prejudices that filter through our cultural experience become hard facts, actions, and behaviors, which literally and bodily involve animals.
An Introduction to Animals and Visual Culture by R. Malamud