Reflections on Our Animal Kinship
An attempt to understand human attachment to the canis familiaris in terms of reciprocity and empathy, Melancholia’s Dog tackles such difficult concepts as intimacy and kinship with dogs, the shame associated with identification with their suffering, and the reasons for the profound mourning over their deaths. In addition to philosophy and psychoanalysis, Alice A. Kuzniar turns to the insights and images offered by the literary and visual arts—the short stories of Ivan Turgenev and Franz Kafka, the novels of J. M. Coetzee and Rebecca Brown, the photography of Sally Mann and William Wegman, and the artwork of David Hockney and Sue Coe. Without falling into sentimentality or anthropomorphization, Kuzniar honors and learns from our canine companions, above all attending to the silences and sadness brought on by the effort to represent the dog as perfectly and faithfully as it is said to love.
“In this skillful blend of psychology, philosophy, art, and literature, Alice Kuzniar sets a new standard for discourse about dogs. She shows how the love of dogs, far from being sentimental and idealistic, is marked by sadness and loss. The anguish of pet love is often shrouded in secrecy, just as its intimacy transcends the exchange of words, but Kuzniar refuses to treat animals as purely and unknowably other, just as she resists reducing pets to projections of ego-driven fantasies. Dogs are worthy of our devotion, just as they are worthy subjects of great literature and art, and this book suggests that understanding animals and art best takes place where those passions intersect.”
“Melancholia’s Dog is a risky and improper book; that is, Kuzniar gives us an acutely intelligent work—intellectually and emotionally—that actually takes seriously what goes on affectively between dogs and people. This is writing attuned to the sadness of unavowed and repudiated attachment across species difference. Kuzniar addresses us, human beings, who refuse to understand that it is we who must learn to comprehend—or even just to notice—the depth, difficulty, and urgency of canine-human relations, so that we might learn at last to speak properly about such matters as pet loss and death, shared vulnerability, and resonating empathic shame. Melancholia’s Dog lovingly inhabits works of visual and literary art in order to make palpable the urgent need to stop our silliness about dogs and to nurture the practice of articulate respect for the complexities of our attachments across the bounds of species difference.”
"Melacholia's Dog cites an astonishing array of luminaries—from Homer and Kafka to the French philosopher Jacques Derrida and the contemporary Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu—all interested in the way our interactions with dogs color our understanding of the world. . . . As a scholarly treatise, [Kuzniar]'s work is a striking combination of intuition and analysis."