The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing (Animalibus #1) (Paperback)

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In the introduction of The Breathless Zoo, author Rachel Poliquin remarks on an exhibit of taxidermied polar bears retrieved from across Great Britain: "If the bears provide a critique of past collecting practices, they also make material the intrinsic worth of preserving animals." This can be taken as a summary for the entirety of The Breathless Zoo, a beautiful, melancholy exploration of the practice of taxidermy and its complicated history. If you, like me, have ever wandered through a natural history museum and felt both awed and discomforted by the animals on display, this book is for you.


— From The Breathless Zoo


From sixteenth-century cabinets of wonders to contemporary animal art, The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing examines the cultural and poetic history of preserving animals in lively postures. But why would anyone want to preserve an animal, and what is this animal-thing now? Rachel Poliquin suggests that taxidermy is entwined with the enduring human longing to find meaning with and within the natural world. Her study draws out the longings at the heart of taxidermy--the longing for wonder, beauty, spectacle, order, narrative, allegory, and remembrance. In so doing, The Breathless Zoo explores the animal spectacles desired by particular communities, human assumptions of superiority, the yearnings for hidden truths within animal form, and the loneliness and longing that haunt our strange human existence, being both within and apart from nature.

About the Author

Rachel Poliquin is a writer and curator engaged with the cultural and poetic history of the natural world. She has curated taxidermy exhibits for the Museum of Vancouver and the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia. Poliquin is the author of, a website dedicated to exploring the cultural history of taxidermy.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780271053738
ISBN-10: 0271053739
Publisher: Penn State University Press
Publication Date: May 15th, 2013
Pages: 272
Language: English
Series: Animalibus