Creaturely Love

Creaturely Love

How Desire Makes Us More and Less Than Human

Dominic Pettman

A fascinating look at the role of animals in human love through the ages

200 Pages, 6 x 9 in

  • Paperback
  • 9781517901219
  • Published: April 18, 2017
  • Series: Posthumanities
  • eBook
  • 9781452953809
  • Published: April 18, 2017
  • Series: Posthumanities
  • Hardcover
  • 9781517901202
  • Published: April 18, 2017
  • Series: Posthumanities


Creaturely Love

How Desire Makes Us More and Less Than Human

Series: Posthumanities

Dominic Pettman

ISBN: 9781517901219

Publication date: April 18th, 2017

200 Pages

8 x 5

"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 with 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

"Bettman’s ideas and readings will doubtless find application in future scholarship; his text makes readers eager to see all genres of cultural production in the new framework this exciting work provides."—The Goose

"The book offers an interesting engagement with the complexity of expressions of affection."—CHOICE connect

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 is professor of culture and media at Eugene Lang College and the New School for Social Research. His books include Infinite Distraction, Human Error: Species-Being and Media Machines (Minnesota, 2011), Look at the Bunny, Love and Other Technologies, and Sonic Intimacy.

Introduction: On the Stupidity of Oysters
1. Divining Creaturely Love
2. Horsing Around: The Marriage Blanc of Nietzsche, Andreas-Salomé, and Rée
3. Groping for an Opening: Rilke between Animal and Angel
4. Electric Caresses: Rilke, Balthus, and Mitsou
5. Between Perfection and Temptation: Musil, Claudine, and Veronica
6. The Biological Travesty
7. “The Creature Whom We Love”: Proust and Jealousy
8. The Love Tone: Capture and Captivation
9. “The Soft Word That Comes Deceiving”: Fournival’s Bestiary of Love
10. The Cuckold and the Cockatrice: Fourier and Hazlitt
11. The Animal Bride and Horny Toads
12. Unsettled Being: Ovid’s Metamorphoses
13. Fickle Metaphysics
14. Nymphomania and Faunication
15. Senseless Arabesques: Wendy and Lucy
16. The Goat in the Machine (A Reprise)
Conclusion: On Cetaceous Maidens
Epilogue: Animal Magnetism and Alternative Currents (or Tesla and the White Dove)