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Beyond Our Mind: Taiwanese Literature Between Animals and Humans

  • DATE:2022-06-08~2023-01-29
  • VENUE:1st Floor, Exhibition Room D

Animals are ever-present in literature, with animal-related totems, portraitures, affective characters, and personifications all familiar elements in mythical tales, poetry & song, novels, essays, and children’s stories. So-called “animal literature” explores the complicated relationships between we humans and the myriad other creatures that share our earthly home.

Naturally, animals have played an important role throughout the long history of literature in Taiwan. Examples include the powerful animal spirits of indigenous Austronesian lore, the exotic endemic Formosan deer and birds featured in Qing-era classical poems, the hardworking water buffalo and horses portrayed in novels of the Japanese Colonial Period, modernist literature’s use of animals to explore humanity’s crude bestiality, the portrayal of cats and dogs as cherished companions in urban literature, and contemporary literature’s explorations of the plight of nature to challenge the wisdom of civilized “progress”.

Although animals cannot write, authors have written animals into “animal literature” to enrich physical and experiential narratives. The Book of Job in the Christian bible contains the passage: “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you.” The author was clearly talking about the profundity of nature. Nature holds truths that lie beyond our understanding. To plumb such knowledge and wisdom, we must look beyond the human experience.

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