Journal Article

Gorillas in the House of Light

David Ashford

in The Cambridge Quarterly

Published on behalf of Cambridge Quarterly

Volume 40, issue 3, pages 201-223
Published in print September 2011 | ISSN: 0008-199X
Published online September 2011 | e-ISSN: 1471-6836 | DOI:
Gorillas in the House of Light

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The Gorilla House at London Zoo was the first in a series of remarkable modernist zoo buildings to be built in Britain by Berthold Lubetkin in the 1930s. In this article his Gorilla House is considered in relation to the pioneering work on the significance of the ‘Animal’ in western philosophy initiated by Derrida. Lubetkin's modernist structure is seen to constitute an anthropocentric reinstating of the human order over the animal, a rear-guard action against a culture-wide anxiety stemming from what Freud called humanity's second trauma, the threat to the foundations of humanist thought posed by Darwinian theory. This article contends that the anthropoid apes were a magnet for such fears from the moment of their discovery, and seeks to establish the precise nature of the menace that Lubetkin chose to place in this landmark of modernism, in this first ‘House of Light’.

Journal Article.  9621 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Art ; Film ; Music

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