Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Melancholia's Dog

Alice Kuzniar has recently written what sounds like a fascinating book entitled Melancholia's Dog: Reflections on Our Animal Kinship published by the University of Chicago Press. She describes the book as follows:
Bred to provide human companionship, dogs eclipse all other species when it comes to reading the body language of people. Dog owners hunger for a complete rapport with their pets; in the dog the fantasy of empathetic resonance finds its ideal. But cross-species communication is never easy. Dog love can be a precious but melancholy thing. My new book is an attempt to understand human attachment to the canis familiaris in terms of reciprocity and empathy. It tackles such difficult concepts as intimacy and kinship with dogs, the shame associated with identification with their suffering, and the reasons for the profound mourning over their deaths. In addition to philosophy and psychoanalysis, I turn to the insights and images offered by the literary and visual arts. The short stories of Ivan Turgenev and Franz Kafka, the novels of J. M. Coetzee and Rebecca Brown, the photography of Sally Mann and William Wegman, and the artwork of David Hockney and Sue Coe. Without falling into sentimentality or anthropomorphization, in this book I try to honor and learn from our canine companions, above all attending the silences and sadness brought on by the effort to represent the dog as perfectly and faithfully as it is said to love.
Alice Kuzniar at UNC.

Kuzniar speaks more extensively about the book in an interview with Deborah Harper for Psychjourney. An audio version of the interview is available in a podcast (click on play bottom at the the bottom of the UNC webpage). It's well worth a listen.

[P.S. Hat tip to Scott Abbott at Goalie's Anxiety for both info on the book and credit for the reference to Durer's etching, "Melancholia" (image above). And totally off-topic, but marvelous nevertheless, is Scott's essay entitled Goalie's Anxiety. As the mother of a sometimes goalkeeper who has taught me much about the position (and who has a special talent at both saving goals as a keeper and making them as a player in PK situations), and as a former student and promiscuous reader about language and philosophy, I appreciated it more than I can say.]

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