The Cat and the Human Imagination: Feline Images from Bast to Garfield

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University of Michigan Press, 2001 - Literary Criticism - 222 pages
The Cat and the Human Imagination is a fascinating historical survey of the changing cultural attitudes towards cats and the myriad ways that they have been depicted in literature and art. Feline images have permeated civilization since the time of the ancient Egyptians, and during this time the status of the cat has changed dramatically. The book examines the changing images-- fertility goddess, sly little predator, agent of Satan, avenging witness, aristocrat, friend, spirit of the home, bloodthirsty killer, seductive female--and relates them to the contexts in which they arose. It also analyzes how human attitudes towards cats seem to have evolved in parallel with attitudes towards animals, towards authority, and towards gender.
Western literature and visual art have reflected this change, developing from bare sketches to richly varied expressions of feline personality and human interaction with cats. Katharine M. Rogers seeks out the cats who make appearances in an impressive range of literary and artistic works, providing the first critical look at the symbolic functioning of cat characters in Poe's "The Black Cat," Dickens's Bleak House, and Zola's Therese Raquin, among other literary works. The historical and artistic range covered is impressive, creating a rich compendium that is the ideal book for the cat lover seeking a refreshingly substantial and scholarly work about this fascinating animal.
"This book is a classic-- something every cat-loving intellectual will have to own. (No one, of course, ever really owns a cat--but everyone should own this book.) It's the kind of book you want to quote from at the vet's, or cocktail parties, or whenever you get the urge to convert a dog lover to the true faith." --Emily Toth, Louisiana State University
Katharine M. Rogers is Professor Emerita of English, City University of New York. Her previous books include Feminism in Eighteenth-Century England and Frances Burney: The World of "Female Difficulties."

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