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Gorgeous Beasts: Animal Bodies in Historical Perspective (Animalibus: Of Animals and Cultures) Library Binding – September 28, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“This book introduces us to gorgeous beasts—creatures we yearn for, treasure, misunderstand, and mistreat. Enclosure-endangered Atlantic codfish, bloodhounds unleashed on the Maroon uprisings in Jamaica, taxidermied elephants that conferred secondhand majesty on trophy hunters, slither-painting snakes, even dog-skin gloves and civet-scented perfumes (those animal-made objects): all testify to our human co-construction of, with, and by animals. In the book’s lush illustrations, the visual representation of animals has equal footing with their material and economic histories, and the result is a thought-provoking and sense-igniting treat.”
—Susan Merrill Squier, author of Poultry Science, Chicken Culture: A Partial Alphabet and Liminal Lives: Imagining the Human at the Frontiers of Biomedicine

Gorgeous Beasts is a gorgeous book. As the essays revel in the physicality of animal bodies in order to reveal why and how animals matter in history and art, so the volume celebrates the physical book. Extensively illustrated, expertly designed, and printed on sumptuous paper, it embodies the best of the exhibition catalogue and the scholarly text. Like a finely curated art exhibit, it speaks to the myriad and contradictory ways that animals matter through individual works that are a pleasure to behold, read, and contemplate.”
—Amy Nelson, American Historical Review

“This innovative, accessible, and thorough collection addresses an admirable range of historical and geographical contexts to demonstrate that the human relationship with other species is complex and overdetermined, and that human systems of knowledge and representation are crucial for negotiating this uneven terrain. An essential teaching text, Gorgeous Beasts will find a welcome home in the HAS classrooms of many disciplines.”
—Sherryl Vint, author of Bodies of Tomorrow: Technology, Subjectivity, Science Fiction

“Edited by Joan B. Landes, Paula Young Lee, and Paul Youngquist, Gorgeous Beasts brings together nine essays by some of the most sophisticated voices within animal studies to explore the histories and desires shaping human encounters with other animals, both alive and dead. . . . Gorgeous Beasts asks all the right questions. Its animal bodies are provocative, unpredictable, and potent. Meticulously researched and eloquently argued with clear, accessible language, the essays incite a knowing that grows beyond the page and into our daily lives with other animals.”
—Rachel Poliquin, Humanimalia

“With a multidisciplinary approach combining historical studies and the study of visual representations, with a period focus centered on the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but also reaching back to the Renaissance and forward to contemporary works, and with contributions from some of the most prominent and thought-provoking scholars in the field of animal studies, Gorgeous Beasts energetically advances the current conversation about the human uses of nonhuman animals. Several essays investigate and seek to remedy the lack of representation involved in past and present silences concerning the slaughter of animals, while others investigate the problematic representations of animals as creatures of the wild, objects of scientific study, trophies, or biomass to be harvested. The attention paid to the contemporary artists Daniel Spoerri and Mark Dion makes explicit the links between the historical analyses and our current situation. Raising provocative and important questions, this volume sets the terms for future studies of the representation of other animals by humans.”
—Frank Palmeri, University of Miami

“The essays in this book explore the important, sometimes ambiguous roles that animals play in human culture.”
—E. K. Mix, Choice

About the Author

Joan B. Landes is Walter L. and Helen Ferree Professor of Early Modern History and Women’s Studies at Penn State University.

Paula Young Lee is an independent scholar and the editor of Meat, Modernity, and the Rise of the Slaughterhouse (2008).

Paul Youngquist is Professor of English at the University of Colorado.


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Product Details

  • Series: Animalibus: Of Animals and Cultures (Book 2)
  • Library Binding: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press (September 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0271054018
  • ISBN-13: 978-0271054018
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,418,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paula Young Lee is a cultural historian and backwoods cook. Her nonfiction books include "Game: A Global History"; "The Hunter's Haunch"; and "Meat, Modernity and the Rise of the Slaughterhouse"(ed). Her first memoir, "Deer Hunting in Paris" won the 2014 Lowell Thomas Travel Book Award of the Society of American Travel Writers. She splits her time between Maine and Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By mae.mae on February 4, 2013
Format: Library Binding Verified Purchase
An interesting collection of writings on animals - with a good range of topics that are all historically grounded. A great read!
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By luap on November 14, 2012
Format: Library Binding
This book is a good illustration of the excesses of cultural studies. The essays are free-floating meditations that reflect little historical research and/or little knowledge of animals. The methodology seems to be free association, with the names of famous philosophers thrown in randomly. If you want to understand why this entire approach is disappearing from the academy, this is a good beginning point.
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