Animal/Nonhuman Workshop

University of Chicago

Month: April 2016

Wednesday, May 4, 2016: Matthew Vanderpoel with “Domesticated Necromancy: ‘Renart Magicien’ and the Non-Humanity of Language”

Matthew Vanderpoel, History of Christianity in the Divinity School, University of Chicago 

“Domesticated Necromancy: ‘Renart Magicien’ and the Non-Humanity of Language”

Co-sponsored with the Medieval Studies workshop

In “Renart the Sorcerer,” an early-thirteenth-century branch of the sprawling Reynard cycle, the titular fox amplifies his usual mischief-making by traveling to Toledo to study necromancy. This paper presents a reading of this understudied text by focusing on Reynard’s apprenticeship in black magic—a process that includes both his formal study of magical formulae and his being domesticated as a house animal. By pairing these activities, the author charges a set of comparisons between the occult rules of enchantment and the strictures of human society. The paper concludes by analyzing this work as a part of larger debates over language and poetry in the high Middle Ages.

Please email Katharine Mershon (kpflaum@uchicago.edu) for a copy of the paper.

Light refreshments will be served.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Katharine Mershon (kpflaum@uchicago.edu).

Wednesday, April 20: James Leo Cahill with “Carnivorous Cinema”

James Leo Cahill, Cinema Studies Institute and Department of French, University of Toronto

“Carnivorous Cinema”

In Jean Vigo’s 1930 address “Toward a Social Cinema,” he challenges engaged filmmakers to pursue subjects “that eat meat” [qui mange de la viande], in other words, film subject that bite into the flesh and inaugurate a carnivorous cinema. What to make of this strange project? What does it mean to premise an engaged cinema upon a violent imperative to devour flesh? What configurations of body, flesh, life, death, and social relations can such an orientation realize?

 

A belated response to Vigo’s challenge appears in a diptych of short films made in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War in France: Jean Painlevé and Geneviève Hamon’s L’Assassins d’eau douce / Freshwater Assassins (1947), a documentary about the predatory behaviors of local freshwater insects set to a frenetic hot jazz soundtrack, and Georges Franju’s Le Sang des bêtes / Blood of the Beasts (1948), an unflinching view of Paris’ abattoirs featuring commentary by Painlevé. Read together, these films develop a cinematic reflection on the food chain, nutritive destruction, and carnivorous behaviors that vacillates between anthropocentric allegories of human culture and uncanny direct addresses that refuse to grant humans the comfort of a stable place outside of the food chain. Working with archival materials (correspondences, alternate scripts, technical notes), contemporaneous writings on carnivorous culture by Antonin Artaud and heterodox Surrealists associated with Documents, and recent work by Eric Santner and Anat Pick on Walter Benjamin’s notion of natural history, I draw out how these films develop ambivalent audiovisual discourses on modes of gustatory violence that co-implicate spectators in their reflections of precarity, vulnerability, and creatureliness of flesh.

Please email Bill Hutchison (hutch@uchicago.edu) for a copy of the paper.

Light refreshments will be served.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Bill Hutchison (hutch@uchicago.edu). 

Wednesday, April 6: “To be (a baboon), or not to be (a bat); On Time and Subjectivity in Baboon Mothers and Infants”

Sam Schulte, Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, University of Chicago

“To be (a baboon), or not to be (a bat); On Time and Subjectivity in Baboon Mothers and Infants”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
What kinds of valid inferences can be made about animal life? Baboon Mothers and Infants, as a foundational work for behavioral ecology and deploying methodology from Jeanne Altmann’s 1974 paper on observational study, establishes the validity of focal sampling as a data collection method for the naturalistic study of animal behavior. Using the issue of time in Thomas Nagel’s “What is it like to be a bat?” as a means to explore the ontological and epistemological stakes of her work, I argue that Altmann productively manipulates analytic time in order to form a well-supported notion of what it is like ‘to be’ a mother-infant dyad, and in so doing, makes objective claims about the subjective experience of the dyad.

Please email Katharine Mershon (kpflaum@uchicago.edu) for a copy of the paper.

Light refreshments will be served.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Katharine Mershon (kpflaum@uchicago.edu).

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