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Animal Theory

A Critical Introduction

Derek Ryan

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A critical introduction to theoretical approaches to animals and animality

From caged orangutans to roasted pig, from dog training to horse phobias, from communicating bees to ruminating cows, Derek Ryan explores how animals are encountered in theoretical discourse.

Across four thematically organised chapters on ‘Animals as Humans’, ‘Animal Ontology’, ‘Animal Life’ and ‘Animal Ethics’ he offers extended discussions of Nietzsche, Freud, Lacan, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Deleuze, Singer, Nussbaum, Adams and Haraway among others, as well as lively readings of contemporary literary texts by Carter, Coetzee, Auster and Foer. Intended as a resource for researchers, students, teachers and all those interested in human-animal relationships, Animal Theory: A Critical Introduction provides an accessible and authoritative account of the challenges and potential in thinking about and with animals.

Key Features

  • Provides a wide-ranging discussion of theoretical approaches to animals in modern and contemporary philosophy
  • Offers an accessible guide to key concepts in animal theory
  • Intervenes in current debates by critically engaging with theoretical issues and suggesting new ways to consider human-animal relations
  • Includes close readings of four contemporary literary texts to supplement the theoretical discussion
  • Contains a list of ‘Key Texts’ and ‘Further Reading’ at the end of each chapter


1. Animals as Humans
2. Animal Ontology
3. Animal Life
4. Animal Ethics

About the Author

Derek Ryan is Lecturer in Modernist Literature at the University of Kent.


An exceptional introduction for scholars, teachers, and others seeking to engage the struggle with ‘the animal’ and ‘nonhuman’ in theory, Animal Theory concisely traces the transdisciplinary revolution in thought that drives the academic field of animal studies.

- Professor Susan McHugh, University of New England, USA

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