Animal Studies Bibliography

Malamud, Randy. 1998. Poetic Animals and Animal Souls. Society and Animals 6(3):263-277.

In this article, Malamud discusses the reverent attitude that Mesoamericans have toward nonhuman animals and contrasts this with the disrespectful way in which Westerners view these animals. He then discusses the possibility that Western writers of animal poetry might be a valuable resource for providing Western society with an insight into the beauty and complexity of the animal world and in identifying the potential rewards of more equitable human-animal relations.

Malamud identifies the ideal animal poet as one who does not subordinate nonhuman animals by naming, or categorizing, them as lesser creatures. These poets do not classify nonhuman animals as distant others, but rather present them as noble, cognitive beings. Malamud states that these poets show how art may facilitate a better understanding and appreciation of animals and, thus, of nature and the world around us (p. 264). He goes on to cite Lawrence 's argument that animal poetry is 'an essential key to the age-old search for man's place in nature' (p. 265). He also discusses Frost's literature research, which indicates that human-animal interactions provide something that is missing from human society. Frost is cited as arguing that human society would be improved by the recognition of cognitive ability in nonhuman animals.

Malamud then explains Mesoamerican beliefs about nonhuman animals, which are predicated on the idea of (as Gossen has stated) 'a private spiritual world of the self that is expressed through the concept of animal souls or other extrasomatic causal forces that influence their [Mesoamericans'] destiny' (p. 266). Malamud claims that whereas Western culture has the idea of God or science to explain that beyond its control, Mesoamericans have the belief in an animal soul. He says that, in Mesoamerican society, Human existence is directly linked to, and dependent upon, the fortunes of other creatures (p.267). He sees this kind of idea as something that could open Westerners' eyes to an alternative view of animals. Malamud views animal poets as portraying animals in a way that approaches the Mesoamerican depiction of animals as beings that crucially matter and embody a spiritual and ecological potency on their own terms (p. 268).

Malamud discusses the importance of the potential role of animal poets in reshaping the Western conception of the relation of humans to animals. He expresses the belief that developing a better understanding of the nonhuman animal can act as a catalyst in developing a better understanding of the human self. He points out that Animals are so important to our lives in so many ways, and yet we largely construct our world and our lives as necessarily separate from theirs. We should feel compelled to think about them and understand them, both on their own merits and in terms of how their existence and their survival impacts our lives (p. 271). He argues that animals can provide humans with valuable information about adaptation to, and preservation of, the environment. He then provides examples of animal poetry from three poets Marianne Moore, Gary Snyder, and Jos ¾ Emilio Pacheco in order to demonstrate these writers' view of animals as majestic, sentient beings, and also to show the role that these writers may play in restructuring Western society by putting forth new, more enlightened attitudes toward animals.



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