Fall 2007

on the animal turn

Harriet Ritvo

Harriet Ritvo, a Fellow of the American Academy since 2005, is Arthur J. Conner Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the author of “The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age” (1987) and “The Platypus and the Mermaid, and Other Figments of the Classifying Imagination” (1997); the coeditor of “Macropolitics of Nineteenth-Century Literature: Nationalism, Imperialism, Exoticism” (1991); and the editor of Charles Darwin's “The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication” (1998). She has a forthcoming book, “The Dawn of Green: Manchester, Thirlmere, and the Victorian Environment,” to be published by the University of Chicago Press.

Learned attention to animals is far from new. The scientific study of animals stretches back at least to Aristotle. Livestock have attracted the interest of scholars with either a practical or theoretical interest in agriculture. Critics of art and literature have explicated animal symbols and animal themes. Historians have chronicled important animal-related institutions, from humane societies to zoos. People distinguished in their association with animals, whether as breeders or hunters or scientists, have had their biographers–as have some animals distinguished in their own right, from Jumbo to Seabiscuit. .  .  .

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