Volume 24, Issue 1, 2014
The Experience of Animality
Quia Ego Nominor Leo: Barthes, Stereotypes and Aesop’s Animal
Taking Barthes’ discussion of Aesop’s lion as my starting point, I examine the notion of the stereotype as it applies to the use of animals in philosophy and cultural theory. By employing an illustrative selection of animal ciphers from Saussure and Austin, and animal indices from Peirce and Schopenhauer, I argue that theory’s beasts are always at risk of becoming either exemplars of a deadening, generic Animal or mere stultifying stereotypes. Gilbert Ryle’s faithful dog, Fido, as well as a number of Aesop’s edifying animals, help to demonstrate that these two dangers are not inescapable, however. I close by indicating two strategies for preventing the unnecessary inhibition of the creatures of critical theory, focusing on Derrida’s individual and gently unruly cat.