Of Sheep, Oranges, and Yeast

Of Sheep, Oranges, and Yeast

A Multispecies Impression

Julian Yates

Refocusing our lens on literature and history to lives beyond the human

368 Pages, 6 x 9 in

  • Paperback
  • 9781517900670
  • Published: January 10, 2017
  • Series: Posthumanities
  • eBook
  • 9781452953434
  • Published: January 10, 2017
  • Series: Posthumanities


Of Sheep, Oranges, and Yeast

A Multispecies Impression

Series: Posthumanities

Julian Yates

ISBN: 9781517900670

Publication date: January 10th, 2017

368 Pages


8 x 5

"Of Sheep, Oranges, and Yeast promises—and delivers—everything. A microcosmos, it treats sheep, plants, microbes, and Benjamin Franklin’s bread rolls, ranging from pastoral poetry to Philip K. Dick. At every turn, Yates surprised and delighted me. This volume's multimodal capaciousness, equally adept in historiographical, philosophical, biographical, and even genetic frameworks, should entice anyone feeling the slightest temptation towards posthuman and ecological cultural studies."—Karl Steel, Brooklyn College and Graduate Center, CUNY

"Of Sheep, Oranges, and Yeast: A Multispecies Impression is another of the year's tours de force, an exhilarating rumination on the strange intimacies between nonhuman and human life forms and practices that open a way to imagine the ‘multi species’ shapes of what we think we know about early modern culture."—Studies in English Literature

"Of Sheep is one of the most sophisticated conjunctions of ecocriticism, posthumanism, and historicism to appear in many years, providing a comprehensive index of our current theoretical moment’s most influential proper names and terms of art. It’s beautiful in the way that all hand-drawn maps are, and it should be widely read."—Studies in English Literature

In what senses do animals, plants, and minerals “write”? How does their “writing” mark our livesour past, present, and future? Addressing such questions with an exhilarating blend of creative flair and theoretical depth, Of Sheep, Oranges, and Yeast traces how the lives of, yes, sheep, oranges, gold, and yeast mark the stories of those animals we call “human.”

Bringing together often separate conversations in animal studies, plant studies, ecotheory, and biopolitics, Of Sheep, Oranges, and Yeast crafts scripts for literary and historical study that embrace the fact that we come into being through our relations to other animal, plant, fungal, microbial, viral, mineral, and chemical actors. The book opens and closes in the company of a Shakespearean character talking through his painful encounter with the skin of a lamb (in the form of parchment). This encounter stages a visceral awareness of what Julian Yates names a “multispecies impression,” the way all acts of writing are saturated with the “writing” of other beings. Yates then develops a multimodal reading strategy that traces a series of anthropo-zoo-genetic figures that derive from our comaking with sheep (keyed to the story of biopolitics), oranges (keyed to economy), and yeast (keyed to the notion of foundation or infrastructure). 

Working with an array of materials (published and archival), across disciplines and historical periods (Classical to postmodern), the book allows sheep, oranges, and yeast to dictate their own chronologies and plot their own stories. What emerges is a methodology that fundamentally alters what it means to read in the twenty-first century. 

Julian Yates is professor of English and material culture studies at the University of Delaware. He is the author of Error, Misuse, Failure: Object Lessons from the English Renaissance (Minnesota, 2003).

Part I. Sheep
1. Counting Sheep in the Belly of the Wolf
2. What Was Pastoral (Again)? More Versions (Otium for Sheep)
Part II. Oranges
3. Invisible Inc. (Time for Oranges)
4. Gold You Can Eat (On Theft)
Part III. Yeast
5. Bread and Stones (On Bubbles)