Clifford Mak

Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow in the Humanities

20122013 Forum on Peripheries

Clifford Mak

Comparative Literature

Modernism & the Peripheral Animal

While animal and posthumanist studies have recently come to the attention of the humanities in general, a surprisingly little amount of this critical attention has been turned towards the modernist period, despite the latter's preoccupation with questions of animality. In contrast to previous periods, the increasingly industrialized and urbanized early twentieth century finds animals largely relegated to the peripheries of human experience: economically peripheral in remote slaughterhouses, epistemologically in laboratories, aesthetically in zoos, pedagogically in natural history literature and museums, etc. In what ways, then, does this shift in interspecies relations register in the works of modernist literature, whether as irretrievable loss or persistent trace? What often unspectacular and peripheral spheres of human-animal relations (scientific, forensic, affective, aesthetic) have remained forgotten by history in the archives? And finally, what can an archaeology of the modernist animal and their persistent limning on the peripheries of modernist vision teach us now as humans (and humanists) beginning the twenty-first century?