For Robinson Devor's 2000 film Zoo, zoophilia is “digital desire” in ways that go far beyond its thematic fascination with the Internet and with forms of the virtual. Its lavishly excessive visual beauty and its reticence about depicting bestiality make zoophilia a mode of cinematic viewing. Unexpectedly, the film's exploration of zoophilia illuminates an embodied experience of reading that poets and novelists likewise figure in relation to animals; displacements of perspective and voice that literary texts explore in terms of literary meaning as it shades into animal movement in turn help clarify Zoo's understanding of zoophilia. In detailed readings of texts by J. M. Coetzee (Disgrace), William Faulkner (The Hamlet), Wallace Stevens (“Sunday Morning”), and Elizabeth Bishop (“The Armadillo”), the essay finds in them a destitution of the self that—as psychological depth gives way to surface and movement, and literary meaning, to the rapture of mere sound—is experienced as bodily joy and bodily vulnerability. That destitution helps clarify why Zoo does not evade the ethical dilemmas of sex with animals; by linking zoophilia to cinematic absorption, Zoo makes its mode of filming an ethics, and a practice, of desire. If in zoophilia the Internet gives birth to a new sexual identity, that crossing with technology potentially codifies a disappearing subject. Pairing a birth of vision with an unwatchable spectacle, Zoo suggests a birth of vision that is a blindness cleaned, a mode of viewing in which, to the extent that it truly sees, there may be no one there to do the seeing.
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Ellis Hanson Ellis Hanson
Research Article| July 01 2011
“The consummation of the swallow's wings”: A Zoo Story
South Atlantic Quarterly (2011) 110 (3): 715–743.
Kevin Ohi; “The consummation of the swallow's wings”: A Zoo Story. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2011; 110 (3): 715–743. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-1275860
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