The Animal as Symbol



Throughout recorded history humans have watched Non–Humans and lived in close proximity with them. This observation has been the root on which the cultural reproduction of animals has been grafted and without this no Non–Human would have become the subject or object of any aesthetic representation. The methods by which Non–Humans have become the material of cultural reproduction are manifold and the following chapters will explore three of them: the use of animals as symbols; anthropomorphism; and narratives of transformation. All other modes of representation are variants on these three main techniques. The three categories are by no means hermetically sealed and it may well be that readers will think that some of the examples I give do not fit into the category in which I wish to place them particularly well. This does not worry me as what I am attempting to do here is not to produce a rigorously worked out poetics or narratology of the nonhuman. I want instead to provide examples of the ways in which animals are depicted in western culture and to comment on the significance of this depiction for the human relationship with the nonhuman. In fact, I would be very pleased if what I have to say engages any reader sufficiently to make him or her wish to contest and reorganise my arguments.


Literary Representation Paradise Lost White Whale Aesthetic Representation Cultural Reproduction 
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© John Simons 2002

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