Enfilade

New Title | The Breathless Zoo

Posted in books by Editor on July 28, 2012

An exceptional title, an exceptional cover. For the latter, credit goes to Karen Knorr; the photograph, “Corridor,” is from her Fables series (2007). From Penn State UP:

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Rachel Poliquin, The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2012), 272 pages, ISBN: 9780271053721, $35.

From sixteenth-century cabinets of wonders to contemporary animal art, The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing examines the cultural and poetic history of preserving animals in lively postures. But why would anyone want to preserve an animal, and what is this animal-thing now? Rachel Poliquin suggests that taxidermy is entwined with the enduring human longing to find meaning with and within the natural world. Her study draws out the longings at the heart of taxidermy—the longing for wonder, beauty, spectacle, order, narrative, allegory, and remembrance. In so doing, The Breathless Zooexplores the animal spectacles desired by particular communities, human assumptions of superiority, the yearnings for hidden truths within animal form, and the loneliness and longing that haunt our strange human existence, being both within and apart from nature.

Rachel Poliquin is a writer and curator engaged with the cultural and poetic history of the natural world. She has curated taxidermy exhibits for the Museum of Vancouver and the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia. Poliquin is the author of ravishingbeasts.com, a website dedicated to exploring the cultural history of taxidermy.

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