On Cixous’ portrayal of the animal

To imagine that the bird soars in unworldliness articulates a rejection of human and societal constraint more so than an accurate portrayal of the animal, especially when humanity’s impact on the world, through climate change related mass extinction, transcends the bounds of its own knowledge and touches even undiscovered spaces. W. D. Ross asks, “Is there a point at which we may write the animal body without insisting on consuming it?” Does Cixous’ framework speak truly of the animal, or does she make of it a romantic symbol of an ideal human freedom? Cixous’ analysis suggests that the animal brings the human beyond humanity, yet the beyond of this statement stands firmly in the human perspective. The author of G. H.’s story calls this beyond ‘inferno,’ but Hell too remains a biblical cliché.

On the musicality of matter and life

“Perhaps the figure of music offers a genuine alternative to both thing and idea, the emergence of rhythm and melody as something more than juxtaposed beats or notes while something less than an explicit thought, as a sense that invade the subject rather than being reducible to an object for it. The rhythm of the heart and the breath indicate the musicality of matter and life from which the mind emerges, and the relation of the lived melody to its virtual score may yet figure the relation between life and mind in an entirely new register, the register of expression rather than of signification. This is a suggestion to which Merleau-Ponty will return in his later writings, but which may already be suggested when he characterizes our relation with nature, in Phenomenology of Perception, as ‘singing the world’”

-Ted Toadvine, Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy of Nature

On epithets

“From a man’s mouth, the epithet ‘female’ sounds like an insult; but he, not ashamed of his animality, it proud to here: ‘He’s a male!’ The term ‘female’ is pejorative not because it roots woman in nature but because it confines her in her sex, and if this sex, even in an innocent animal, seems despicable and an enemy to man, it is obviously because of the disquieting hostility woman triggers in him”

-Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

On consuming the animal

“Is there a point at which we may write the animal body without insisting on consuming it?”

Every living being must eat; to be alive is the necessity to eat. Cixous maintains that animals and humans, then, are bonded in eating, to sustain themselves, to keep themselves alive. As the nourishment of life, then, eating is a good without which there would be only death. Or, perhaps worse, inedibility, for even the nutrients in our soil depends upon a previous death. Without eating, there would be only stagnation. Cixous realizes, however, that eating is simultaneously a cruelty. For the human to eat, she must turn life to death and transform an animal body into meat, and an object of consumption. The animal is cut into bite-sized pieces, seasoned, and judged on its flavor. Ross argues that “eating is the cruelty of the necessity that devious animals for the sake of human beings. Well beyond humanity.” For Cixous, the need to eat links the member of society, of humanity, to life, to goodness, to death, to cruelty, and to animals: it reminds the individual that behind the neatly crafted world of men lies an unordered realm, paradoxically full of goodness and of cruelty.