The Last Dinosaur Book

The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon

W. J. T. Mitchell

The Last Dinosaur Book
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W. J. T. Mitchell

329 pages | 45 color plates, 66 halftones, 3 line drawings | 6-1/2 x 10 | © 1998
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226532042 Published November 1998
For animals that have been dead millions of years, dinosaurs are extraordinarily pervasive in our everyday lives. Appearing in ads, books, movies, museums, television, toy stores, and novels, they continually fascinate both adults and children. How did they move from natural extinction to pop culture resurrection? What is the source of their powerful appeal? Until now, no one has addressed this question in a comprehensive way. In this lively and engrossing exploration of the animal’s place in our lives, W.J.T. Mitchell shows why we are so attached to the myth and the reality of the "terrible lizards."

Mitchell aims to trace the cultural family tree of the dinosaur, and what he discovers is a creature of striking flexibility, linked to dragons and mammoths, skyscrapers and steam engines, cowboys and Indians. In the vast territory between the cunning predators of Jurassic Park and the mawkishly sweet Barney, from political leviathans to corporate icons, from paleontology to Barnum and Bailey, Mitchell finds a cultural symbol whose plurality of meaning and often contradictory nature is emblematic of modern society itself. As a scientific entity, the dinosaur endured a near-eclipse for over a century, but as an image it is enjoying its widest circulation. And it endures, according to Mitchell, because it is uniquely malleable, a figure of both innovation and obsolescence, massive power and pathetic failure—the totem animal of modernity.

Drawing unforeseen and unusual connections at every turn between dinosaurs real and imagined, The Last Dinosaur Book is the first to delve so deeply, so insightfully, and so enjoyably into our modern dino-obsession.

1: Reptilicus erectus
2: Big, Fierce, Extinct
3: A Stegosaurus Made of Money
4: The End of Dinosaurology
5: The Last Thunder Horse West of the Mississippi
6: Dinotopia: The Newt World Order
7: The Last Dinostory: As Told by Himself
8: Seeing Saurians
9: Sorting Species
10: Monsters and Dinomania
11: Big MacDino
12: The Totem Animal of Modernity
13: The Way of Dragons
14: Dry Bones
15: On the Evolution of Images
16: Thomas Jefferson, Paleontologist
17: Frames, Skeletons, Constitutions
18: The Victorian Dinosaur
19: Coming to America
20: Bones for Darwin’s Bulldog
21: Schizosaur
22: Dinosaurs Moralized
23: Pale-Ontology, or It’s Not Easy Being Green
24: Potlatch and Purity
25: Diplodocus carnegii
26: Totems and Bones
27: Indiana Jones and Barnum Bones
28: Worlds Well Lost
29: Bringing Down Baby
30: Miner’s Canary or Trojan Horse?
31: The Age of Reptiles
32: The Hundred Story Beast
33: Structure, Energy, Information
34: Catastrophe, Entropy, Chaos
35: The Age of Biocybernetic Reproduction
36: Carnosaurs and Consumption
37: Why Children Hate Dinosaurs
38: Dinos R Us: Identification and Fantasy
39: Calvinosaurus: From T. rex to O. Rex
40: Transitional Objects: From Breast to Brontosaurus Paleoart 265
A: Scrotum Humanum: The True Name of the Dinosaur
B: Science and Culture
Selected Bibliography
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