Edited By Szymon Wrobel
Quia Ego Nominor Leo: Barthes, Stereotypes and Aesop’s Animal
Taking Barthes’ discussion of Aesop’s lion as my starting point, I examine the notion of the stereotype as it applies to the use of animals in philosophy and cultural theory. By employing an illustrative selection of animal ciphers from Saussure and Austin, and animal indices from Peirce and Schopenhauer, I argue that theory’s beasts are always at risk of becoming either exemplars of a deadening, generic Animal or mere stultifying stereotypes. Gilbert Ryle’s faithful dog, Fido, as well as a number of Aesop’s edifying animals, help to demonstrate that these two dangers are not inescapable, however. I close by indicating two strategies for preventing the unnecessary inhibition of the creatures of critical theory, focusing on Derrida’s individual and gently unruly cat.
Aesop; animal; Austin; Barthes; cat; cipher; Derrida; dog; Fido; fox; horse; index; leo; lion; ox; Peirce; porcupine; Ryle; Saussure; Schopenhauer; stereotype.
Leo the Lion, mightiest of beasts, will stand up to anybody. The word ‘beasts’ should properly be used about lions, leopards, tigers, wolves, foxes, dogs, monkeys and others which rage about with tooth and claw--with the exception of snakes. They are called Beasts because of the violence with which they rage, and are known as ‘wild’ (ferus) because they are accustomed to freedom by nature and are governed (ferantur) by their own wishes. They wander hither and thither, fancy free, and they go wherever they want to go.
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