- The Courtiers’ Anatomists: Animals and Humans in Louis XIV’s Paris by Anita Guerrini, and: Gorgeous Beasts: Animal Bodies in Historical Perspective by Gorgeous Beasts: Animal Bodies in Historical Perspective ed. by Joan B. Landes, Paula Young Lee, Paul Youngquist, and: Animal Companions: Pets and Social Change in Eighteenth-Century Britain by Ingrid H. Tague
These four books are about visual representations of animals, the sentience of nonhuman beings, and the voices of creatures. The voices in question include the clamor of animals and the human language in which their claims may be formulated (Menely, 1). Tobias Menely argues that the vocation of eighteenth-century poets is to advocate for suffering creatures, in the etymological sense of responding to a call to represent the voices of others. Similarly, in their essay in Gorgeous Beasts, Sajay Samuel and Dean Bavington state that the traditional fishermen who resist the techno-scientific “fisheries management regime” thus “gave voice to the codfish” on the Grand Banks (145, 149). However, nonhuman expression has also met with human violence: for example, when a seventeenth-century Parisian anatomist dissected “a living dog to demonstrate the nerves that control the voice” (Guerrini, 44). As Claude Lévi-Strauss wrote in Totemism (1963), “empirical observations” and ideas come together in animals, “not because they are ‘good to eat’ but because they [End Page 531] are ‘good to think’” (89). Mindful of Menely’s criticism of “Complacent citations of Lévi-Strauss’s dictum” (5), I emphasize four ideas in these books: animals have become central subject-matter for human thought; animals facilitate thoughts about other things; some animals have not inconsiderable cognitive abilities; and animal-human companionship includes thinking together as one among many activities of humans’ sharing the world with other species. Ingrid Tague argues that “pets helped people think through the pros and cons of the emerging society we now call modern Britain” (229). In an interview in Gorgeous Beasts, artist Mark Dion says of his simultaneously visceral and intellectual representations of animals that “the visceral or intuitive can . . . lead one to a thoughtful and critical place” (172).
In one of the most intellectually stimulating contributions to the beautifully illustrated Gorgeous Beasts, Erica Fudge defines animal studies as a field that views the animal as an agent, a co-creator “of the so-called human world.” Concerned that the shift from texts to material objects involved in her study of such animal commodities as “‘abortive vellum,’” dog-hide gloves, and civet perfume could reinforce the disappearance of the animal, Fudge uses Actor Network Theory and “thing” theory to emphasize the recalcitrance and continued active presence of the animal in the “‘animal-made-object’”—a term that refers to both “the object constructed from an animal, and . . . the objectified animal” (GB, 42). Fudge argues that the perfume made from glandular secretions of the civet cat exposes the internal contradiction in the capacity of voluntary choice (supposedly a uniquely human capacity), and not only because of the involuntary nature of the sense of smell: “Wearing perfume (with its animal foundation) reveals that early modern humans actually chose to smell like animals, and thus that the human will, which should keep the human human, seemed to work against them” (51).
Even though she devotes a paragraph in her acknowledgments to “the ineffable mystery of animals” as embodied in Isadora and Milou, the family cats (Guerrini, 257), in The Courtiers’ Anatomists Anita Guerrini distances herself from “the field of ‘animal studies’” (3) and especially from the “Explicitly activist . . . sub-subdiscipline known as ‘critical...