The decline of anthropocentrism

The explorations of literary criticism, as well as the other disciplines dedicated to the analysis of various artistic practices, have been affected from some time with the weakening of anthropocentric perspectives.

They have been forming, thus, an increasingly broad and heterogeneous conceptual corpus. If at first the reference field with which we intended to identify this ideological crisis was limited to the tradition of animal literature, over time they became evident in ​​larger areas of artistic imagination.

Margot Norris, in his essays, links the intellectual trajectories of Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche and three contemporary European artists, Franz Kafka, Max Ernst and D. H. Lawrence. All of them rejection of the characteristics of the human that sustain its fullness regarding the state of scarcity of the animal, as well as the willingness to examine their own languages ​​in search of a reassessment of the ontological difference between man and animal. They are also related in skepticism regarding inherited philosophical responses and in reluctance to offer new solutions in the form of new oppositional limitations. On the contrary, these thinkers that Norris subscribe to the current of biocentrism understand that the human-animal relationship must be reconsidered from an discourse different to structuring binarisms that, for centuries, oppose body and mind, reason and instinct, presence and absence, memory and oblivion, calculation and spontaneity, creation and imitation.

The interest is focused on those thinkers and artists who create while imitating animals. In Norris’ discourse is taking shape an exercise in negativity, resistance to the methods and resources of art and humanistic criticism. Norris resorts to the Nietzschean metaphor of hammer philosophy: “an exercise at a time of power and aggression, and the destruction of culture idols by designating and demystifying them.”

The displacement of the point of view has also resulted in affirmative ways of considering the relationship between the human animal and the others living, the valuation of the body and its effusion of power. These features are noticeable in the field of visual arts, where experiences that materialize the material relationships between the physical body of the artist and that of animals proliferate, without symbolic attenuations or aestheticizations, denaturing the violence which subdue great masses of living beings in our societies. Biocentric art thus questions the reduction implied by the precision of the exclusively human aspects of culture, the conception of the cultural universe as the exclusive product of man, the only giver of meaning.

The fictions that most violently attempted against the ontological superiority of man are the same that exhibited the impossibility of conceiving a finished image of the animal. In Kafka’s stories, this effect is achieved through the creation of what Nietzsche has called intuitive metaphors.

If Kafka’s literature still actively participates in cultural debates around the status of the animal in our societies, it is because it has taken that step aside with an unprecedented radicality. An aesthetic, but also philosophical and political displacement that corrects the axis of the discussion about the discourse of the species from the metaphysical and performance narrative level. The crazy parliaments of animals de Kafka detailed that language, demarcated from subjective metaphysics, can effectively become animalized, and that this transformation affects our perception of the non-human living.

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