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Polymorphous Domesticities

Pets, Bodies, and Desire in Four Modern Writers

Juliana Schiesari

Publication Year: 2012

Polymorphous Domesticities maps out the play of gender, sexuality, and alternative forms of domesticity in the works of four modern European and American writers—Edith Wharton, Djuna Barnes, Colette, and J. R. Ackerley. What these four writers have in common is a defiance of patriarchal paradigms in their lives as well as in their works. Not only did they live outside the norms of the heterosexual family unit, they also pursued and wrote about alternative lifestyles that prominently involved animals. Through close readings from a feminist perspective, Juliana Schiesari reconfigures the ways in which interspecies relationships inflect domestic spheres, reading the "Other" through the lens of gender, home, and family. As she explores how domestic life is refigured by the presence of animals, Schiesari challenges anthropocentric frames of reference and brings the very definition of "human" into question.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-6


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pp. vii-8

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pp. ix-10

This book reflects my long-standing interest on the subject of nonhuman animals as a literary project but also, and foremost, as domestic friends and companions. I am deeply indebted to many colleagues and friends for their support of my work as well as for their generosity in pointing me toward some of the authors whose literary works are the subject of this book. I owe a special thanks to Laura Mulvey...

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pp. 1-15

This book continues the exploration I began in Beasts and Beauties: Animals, Gender and Domestication in the Italian Renaissance concerning the co-development of two different but related forms of domestication since the Renaissance: the new culture of domesticated animals that issued forth in the modern phenomenon of the “pet,” and the contemporaneous delineation...

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1 Re-Visions of Diana in Edith Wharton

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pp. 16-37

My reading of Edith Wharton’s poem “Artemis to Actaeon” and her short story “Kerfol” will situate these works in the broader context of what has been called Wharton’s “lurking feminism,” which refigures the myth of Diana as protector of those under her care and punisher of those who would violate her sacred charges.1 Edith Wharton’s “Artemis ...

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2 Colette at Home

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pp. 38-75

If anyone has succeeded in carrying out, through her writing, the Dianic charge of protecting women and animals, not negatively, by vindicating and affirming a female power to inflict retribution, but positively, by celebrating domestic diversity, it would be Colette, a contemporary of both Wharton and Barnes. In Colette’s case, the affirmation of that ...

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3 Romancing the Beast: J. R. Ackerley’s Dog Days and the Meaning of Sex

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pp. 76-113

...“I think love is beautiful and important—anyhow I have found it so in spite of all the pain—and it will sadden me if you fail in this particular way.”1 So wrote E. M. Forster to his friend the writer and literary editor J. R. Ackerley, upon Ackerley’s apparent turn away from his sexual predilection for young working-class boys and toward a ...

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pp. 114-116

The very notion implied in the concept and practice of polymorphism, as envisioned in this book, is that living creatures cannot be reduced to a single model or body. The model of a polymorphous domesticity evoked here is both dynamic and fluid in structure. In it, a plurality of bodies challenge the anthropocentric tendency to view the human subject as ...


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pp. 117-126


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pp. 127-132

Production Notes

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pp. 133-143

E-ISBN-13: 9780520952317
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520270848

Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 772845803
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Polymorphous Domesticities

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Animals in literature.
  • Wharton, Edith, -- 1862-1937 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Barnes, Djuna -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Colette, -- 1873-1954 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Ackerley, J. R. (Joe Randolph), 1896-1967 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Pets in literature.
  • Human-animal relationships in literature.
  • Sex (Psychology) in literature.
  • Social structure in literature.
  • Social values in literature.
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