Talking American Literature and Culture: "A New Animal Condition: Audubon, Poe, Muybridge."

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: Zoom meeting:
  • Lecturer: Antoine Traisnell (Professor of Comparative Literature and English Language and Literature, University of Michigan)
  • Website
  • Organiser: Department of English, Uppsala University
  • Contact person: Daniel Kane
  • Föreläsning

My talk offers a critical genealogy of the representation of animals as they came to be seen as elusive and endangered over the nineteenth century. From Audubon’s still-life watercolors to Poe’s detective hunts to Muybridge’s trip-wire locomotion studies, the century witnessed a surge of artistic, literary, and scientific treatments that sought to “capture” the truth of animals at the historical moment when they were receding from everyday view. This compulsion to contain and record animals ushered in a visual regime where animals are rendered both known in advance (via technologies of knowledge and control) and unknowable (essentially fugitive, always on the verge of disappearance). Not only did the new visual regime of capture breed new aesthetic, literary, and medial genres and techniques (lifelike painting, detective fiction, the moving image), I argue, but it profoundly shaped the modern animal condition and contributed to normalizing the mass exploitation and erasure of animals as we know it today.