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Derrida and Other Animals

The Boundaries of the Human

Judith Still

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Analyses Derrida’s late writings on animals, especially his seminars The Beast and the Sovereign

What is man? This book examines Derrida’s contribution to this long-standing philosophical and political debate, which has typically evoked a significant division between human beings and other animals. Derrida pays close attention to how animals are used to explore humanity in a range of writings, including fables and fiction. This leads to ethical questions about how humans treat animals: sacrificing animals (say, in factory farms) while extending love to pets. And it leads to political questions about how we dehumanise ‘outsiders’, from historical matters such as colonialism and slavery to contemporary issues such as State Terror in response to ‘rogue states’.

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1. Introduction
The Frontier or Abyss – and Animals as Good to Think
The Derrida Texts in Question and the Problem of Defining Terms
Socio-political Contexts
The Philosophical Tradition: Aristotle to Levinas
The Modern Critical and Literary Context
Savages, Slaves and Women

2. Man is a Wolf to Man
Introduction: The Beast and the Sovereign and Lycological Intertexts
La Fontaine and the Fable of Might and Right
Rousseau and Hobbes: Wolves in the State of Nature
Wolves in the Encyclopédie
From Hunger to Taste, and the Eating of Flesh
Concluding Comments

3. The Love of the Wolf
A Certain Tradition
Renée Vivien and ‘The Lady with the She-Wolf’
Cixous and Other Loving
Little Red Riding Hood

4. The Savage
Background: the Ethnographic and Philosophic Encounter with the New World from La Fontaine Onwards
What is the Difference between ‘Man’ and ‘Animal’ (Savage)?
Solitude, Social Characteristics and the Human Community: the Community of Cannibals?
Derrida and ‘Eating Well’

5. The Slave
Sovereignty: Masters Defining Slaves
The Animal-thing
The Pretend Family of Slavery
The Community and Terror: Letters from an American Farmer

6. Women and Other Animals: Working Metamorphoses
Fables: Duffy’s ‘Mrs Aesop’
Work and Technology: Women as Animals
Porcine Metamorphosis: From Ulysses’s Companions to Darrieussecq
Love and Money in Marie Ndiaye’s Ladivine
Conclusion around Eating and Writing

7. Wanting Conclusion
Blindness, Textual and Historical
Self-positing Man and Enlightenment
The State and Terror
Returning to Animals
Women and Emotion
Stupid Conclusions and Gesturing to the Future.


About the Author

Judith Still is Professor of French and Critical Theory and Head of the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies at the University of Nottingham. She is the author of Justice and Differences in the Works of Rousseau (CUP, 1993), Feminine Economies: Thinking against the Market in the Enlightenment and the Late Twentieth Century (MUP, 1997), Derrida and Hospitality (EUP, 2010, Gapper Prize winner 2011) and Enlightenment Hospitality (Voltaire Foundation, 2011).


In this fascinating and important study, Judith Still is ‘on the track’ of Derrida’s writings on the human/animal question. She proceeds à pas de loup, presenting, critiquing and amplifying his texts with issues of gender (social and grammatical), the borderline with ‘less human humans’, cannibalism, naming, weaving and much more.

- Professor Naomi Segal, Birkbeck, University of London

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