Avian Aesthetics in Literature and Culture: Birds and Humans in the Popular Imagination closes the gap between ornithological and humanities knowledge. This book contains fifteen innovative essays that bridge various environment-focused perspectives and methodologies in order to include birds in current conversations within the field of animal studies. This collection challenges species centrism, advances a biodiverse ontology, and embraces bird-centered topics as diverse as gaming, comic strips, window collisions, conservation literature, youth birding, mourning theory, and the “Birds Aren’t Real” movement.
Danette DiMarco is professor of English at Slippery Rock University.
Timothy Ruppert is assistant professor of English at Slippery Rock University.
Introduction: The Continuous Line Between Birds and Humans in Animal Studies Today
Danette DiMarco and Timothy Ruppert
SECTION 1 - The Avian-ness of Aesthetics
Chapter 1: Birdwatching and Wordwatching: The Avian Aesthetics of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway
Birds as Character, Motif, Allusion, and Symbol in Meir Shalev’s A Pigeon and a Boy
Chapter 3: “With An Aviary Inside Its Head”: Surrealist Sensibilities and Avian Ontologies in the Work of J. G. Ballard and Ted Hughes
Chapter 4: The Optimism of Flight: Magical Realism in Little Nemo in Slumberland
SECTION 2 - Writing About/Like Birds
Chapter 5: The Fate of Birds in Anatole France’s Penguin Island
Chapter 6: Of Curlews and Crows: Representations of Avian Cognition in North American Animal Stories
Chapter 7: What is it like to write (like) a bird?: Rethinking Literary Practice to Support Avian Subjectivity
Chapter 8: Margaret Atwood’s Bird Narratives
SECTION 3 - Entangled Worlds
Chapter 9: The Peregrine: At the Intersection of Ecocriticism and New Nature Writing
Chapter 10: Helen Macdonald, T. H. White, and Hawks: H is [also] for History
Louis J. Boyle
Chapter 11: Across So Wide a Sea: Humans, Seabirds, and the Kinship of Mortality
Chapter 12: Collisions in Contemporary American Poetry
SECTION 4 - Consumers Consuming Birds
Chapter 13: “Their Little Brethren of the Air”: Rhetoric of Youth Birding in the United States, 1890s-Present
Chapter 14: Birds Aren’t Real: Narrative and Aesthetic Irony in For-Profit Conspiracy
Chapter 15: Laying Eggs: Ludothematic Resonance and the Birds of Wingspan
"These essays constitute an intense and fascinating study of the strangeness of birds and the variety of ways writers and other cultural creators try to comprehend and represent them. This book provides enlightening considerations of what birds do for us culturally—from powering flights of imagination to providing the most accessible entrance to the natural world—and what we do to birds as we mistakenly humanize them and directly or indirectly destroy them."
"Avian Aesthetics offers a valuable contribution to animal studies and the environmental humanities, exploring the 'multispecies entanglements' of people and birds in literature, art and media from a variety of productive angles. The writers collectively make a potent case for the need to think more deeply and broadly about the relations between the human and avian imaginary."
“Avian Aesthetics is a careful compilation that is informed by a nuanced understanding of environmental studies, and the particularities of avian studies within. DiMarco and Ruppert establish a firm theoretical framework for avian study while at the same time creating space for a variety of disciplinary approaches. Through incisive and unapologetically tender engagement with avian aesthetics, the collection beautifully expands the scope of what is traditionally imagined as ‘environmental texts’ to undergird the often neglected reality that humans are always at once a part of nonhuman nature, with avian life offering us both a literal and figurative reminder of how fleeting this mutuality can seem in a modern and industrialized world. Traversing genre, ocean, and critical lens, the collection successfully enacts the very principle of entanglement that it seeks to articulate.”
Avian aestheticsis an important contribution to the field of ecocriticism, bridging academia and environmentalism, fostering transdisciplinary scholarship, placing birds at the center where they belong rather than the periphery they have sometimes been consigned to. It offers a wealth of perspectives that will be of interest to anyone concerned with representations of birds and human-bird relations in literature.