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Animalia AmericanaAnimal Representations and Biopolitical Subjectivity$
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Colleen Boggs

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231161237

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231161237.001.0001

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Animals and the Letter of the Law

Animals and the Letter of the Law

(p.109) 3 Animals and the Letter of the Law
Animalia Americana

Edgar Allan Poe

Columbia University Press

This chapter explores the relationship between human and animal subjectivity and how American literature engages with and critiques biopower. To this end, the chapter offers a reading of Edgar Allan Poe's writing, which uses animals to link ratiocination, the abstract reasoning that undergirds symbolic discourse, with an alternative register of embodied meaning-making that founds and undercuts it. Poe's stories locate us at the (dis)joint between rights discourse and post-structuralism that lie at the crux of animal studies: they inquire into the criminal justice system's codifications and erasures of subjectivity. If detective fiction ascribes “the individualistic ethic…to the criminal,” Poe questions that ethic in the “Murders in the Rue Morgue” by making the criminal—that is, the author of a “poetic work”—an animal. Associating individuality and poesis with animals, Poe's fiction develops a practice and a theory of animal representation that not only critiques biopower's operations but imagines the negation of subjectivity as the grounds for new representative and representational possibilities.

Keywords:   subjectivity, biopower, Edgar Allan Poe, animals, ratiocination, criminal justice system, detective fiction, individualistic ethic, criminal, poesis

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