Destruction and Creation

Mark Payne

in The Animal Part

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780226650845
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226650852 | DOI:
Destruction and Creation

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This chapter looks at aggression toward animals, and the forms of human self-understanding this aggression occludes. It considers the relationship between aggression and ontological narcissism in fictions of unlimited destructiveness, arguing that these fictions are versions of the myth of Satanism, in which hatred of other kinds of life than one's own grounds the desire to destroy them. The chapter examines some accounts of poetic labor that fashion an escape from such narcissism in the acknowledgment of continuity between the work of poets and the work of other animals. Narrative texts by Flaubert and Milton are presented, and an Aristotelian concept of mythos is used to recoup from them a species-level reflection on human behavior. It is stated that while Aristotle is less explicit than he might be about “the epistemological assumptions of his inquiry into the art of poetry,” his argument in the Poetics that fictional narratives instantiate general truths of human behavior is continuous with his understanding that the human being is one kind of political animal among others.

Keywords: aggression; ontological narcissism; animals; Satanism; mythos

Chapter.  9774 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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