File spoon-archives/phillitcrit.archive/phillitcrit_2000/phillitcrit.0004, message 6

Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 12:27:04 -0700
Subject: PLC: Electric Animal

Dear PHILLITCRIT subscribers,

I wanted to alert you to my new book, which addresses a range of issues in 
the hybrid territories of PHILLITCRIT.  I look forward to hearing your 

With best regards,

Akira Mizuta Lippit

University of Minnesota Press 2000.  Cloth $22.95 ISBN 0-8166-3485-8
Cultural Studies/Philosophy

Akira Mizuta Lippit
Electric Animal
Toward a Rhetoric of Wildlife

A fascinating exploration of the symbolic place animals hold within our 

The break from animals helped to establish the specific notion of a human 
being, but the disappearance of animals now threatens that identity.  This 
is the argument underlying Electric Animal, a probing exploration of the 
figure of the animal in modern culture.  Akira Mizuta Lippit shows us the 
animal as a crucial figure in the definition of modernity, essential to 
developments in the natural sciences and technology, radical 
transformations in modern philosophy and literature, and the emergence of 
psychoanalysis and cinema.

Moving beyond the dialectical framework that has traditionally bound animal 
and human being, Electric Animal raises a series of questions regarding the 
idea of animality in Western thought.  Can animals communicate?  Do they 
have consciousness?  Are they aware of death?  By tracing questions such as 
these through an array of texts by writers ranging from Friedrich Nietzsche 
to Jacques Derrida, Sigmund Freud to Vicki Hearne, Lewis Carroll to Franz 
Kafka, and Sergei Eisenstein to Gilles Deleuze, Lippit arrives at a 
remarkable thesis, revealing an extraordinary consensus in Western thought: 
Animals do not have language, and hence cannot die.

The animal has, accordingly, haunted thought as a form of spectral and 
undead being.  Lippit demonstrates how, in the late nineteenth century, 
this phantasmatic concept of animal being reached the proportions of an 
epistemological crisis, engendering the disciplines and media of 
psychoanalysis, modern literature, and cinema, among others.  Against the 
prohibitive logic of Western philosophy, these fields opened a space for 
rethinking animality.  Technology, usually thought of in opposition to 
nature, came to serve as the repository for an unmournable animality-a kind 
of vast wildlife museum.

A highly original work that charts new territory in current debates over 
questions of language and mortality, subjectivity and technology, Electric 
Animal brings to light fundamental questions about the status of 
representation-of the animal, the human, and non-human being-in the age of 
biomechanical reproduction.

Akira Mizuta Lippit is associate professor of film studies and critical 
theory in the Department of Cinema at San Francisco State University.

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