Kelly Oliver takes The Page 99 Test

Kelly Oliver, Animal LessonsTaking Ford Maddox Ford’s suggestion to heart (“Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you”), The Page 99 Test asks authors to focus in on this particular page.

Recently, Kelly Oliver took the test with her new book Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us to Be Human. After excerpting from page 99 of the book, Oliver summarizes the book’s argument and focus on how philosophers have thought about humanity in relation to animals and what we eat:

From Rousseau and Herder to Freud and Kristeva, philosophers suggest that humanity is determined by what we eat: whether they think that we are what we eat (like Rousseau and Herder) or that we are not what we eat (like Freud and Kristeva), man becomes human by eating animals. I begin by looking back at 18th Century notions of humanity and animality that define man in terms of what he eats in order to set the stage for an investigation into how philosophies of otherness from Freud through Kristeva repeat romantic gestures that exclude and abject animals. Examining texts as varied of those of Rousseau, Herder, Freud, Heidegger, Lacan, Merleau-Ponty, de Beauvoir, Derrida, Agamben, and Kristeva, I argue that concepts of subjectivity, humanity, politics and ethics continue to be defined by the double-movement of assimilating and then disavowing the animal, animality, and animals…. I argue that within the history of philosophy, animals remain the invisible support for whatever we take to be human subjectivity, as fractured and obscure as it becomes in the late Twentieth Century.

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