Departmental Papers (HSS)

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Book Chapter

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Making Animal Meaning

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Those of us who attempt to write about nonhuman animals are all implicated by the pun that appears in the title and throughout the text of Jacques Derrida's L'Animal que donc je suis.1 I follow or track (suis, from the infinitive suivre) the animals about whom or about which I write, and I also am (suis, from être) an animal—specifically, a writing animal. This doubleness of animal writing—its way of situating us simultaneously as subject and object, autobiographer and biographer, pursued and pursuer—is evocatively captured in the opening line of Philip Armstrong's study, What Animals Mean in the Fiction of Modernity, as is the powerful and pervasive assumption that writing is a uniquely human activity: "An animal sits at a desk, writing."2 To which we could add, "writing about animals," which is always a pursuit both of the other and of ourselves: the animal that I follow, the animal that I am.

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Originally published in Making Animal Meaning, Copyright @ 2011 by Michigan State University Press.



Date Posted: 25 February 2019