To our modern ears the word “creature” has wild, musky, even monstrous, connotations. And yet the terms “creaturely” and “love,” taken together, have traditionally been associated with theological debates around the enigmatic affection between God and His key creation, Man. In Creaturely Love, Dominic Pettman explores the ways in which desire makes us both more, and less, human.

In an eminently approachable work of wide cultural reach and meticulous scholarship, Pettman undertakes an unprecedented examination of how animals shape the understanding and expression of love between people. Focusing on key figures in modern philosophy, art, and literature (Nietzsche, Salomé, Rilke, Balthus, Musil, Proust), premodern texts and fairy tales (Fourier, Fournival, Ovid), and contemporary films and online phenomena (Wendy and Lucy, Her, memes), Pettman demonstrates that from pet names to spirit animals, and allegories to analogies, animals have constantly appeared in our writings and thoughts about passionate desire.

By following certain charismatic animals during their passage through the love letters of philosophers, the romances of novelists, the conceits of fables, the epiphanies of poets, the paradoxes of contemporary films, and the digital menageries of the Internet, Creaturely Love ultimately argues that in our utilization of the animal in our amorous expression, we are acknowledging that what we adore in our beloveds is not (only) their humanity, but their creatureliness.

 

“Dominic Pettman has written yet another absorbing, witty, moving, and smart book about the question of human exceptionalism, this time in relation to desire and love, attending especially to literary and artistic works. The book makes a significant contribution particularly to a revisionist reading of modernist literary/artistic history in relation to the presence of the nonhuman animal, or the creaturely.”

—Carla Freccero, University of California, Santa Cruz

 

“Dominic Pettman writes thoughtful, light-fingered books on significant questions that are simultaneously timely and timeless. In Creaturely Love, he takes up the perennial awkwardness that haunts every effort to etherealize romance: the proximity of our loving bodies to the critter-creatures that rut and tread and mount and cover each other just outside our windows. Drawing on the newest (and some of the oldest) thinking about humans and animals, Pettman here recalls us to ourselves—by ruminating on just how hard it is to say what exactly that might mean.”

—D. Graham Burnett, Princeton University

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Buy your copy here.

Professor of Culture & Media at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College.

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