Carnivorous Virility, or Becoming-Dog

This talk argues for a queering of temporality that would undo nationally circumscribed and periodized fields of literary study in order to work through topoi–discursive commonplaces–that haunt texts across historical eras. My case study involves cynanthropy, the merger of human and dog; it takes as its starting point the Columbian New World encounter, from reports of dog-headed cannibals to accounts of the devouring dog as the ubiquitous companion/weapon of Spanish colonizers; and concludes with the attack of Diane Whipple by two Presa Canarios in San Francisco in 2001. The symptomatic figure–itself already haunted by long histories–repeats itself, travels between and among subjects and objects, and condenses in itself a whole series of New and Old world meanings, from companion to cannibal, primitive savage to savagely civilizational. I want to argue that in order to understand the historical and affective work such figures do, we must make use of fantasmatic historiographies whose temporalities resemble psychoanalytic understandings of the working of time as subjectivity and affect more than they do the time of progressivist history.

Carla Freccero is Professor of Literature, Feminist Studies, and History of Consciousness at UCSC, where she has taught since 1991. She also directs the UCSC Center for Cultural Studies. Her most recent book is Queer/Early/Modern (Duke, 2006), and she is currently working on a book tentatively titled Animate Figures, from which this talk is taken.

Lecture presented by the Townsend Center Working Group on Psychoanalysis, The Program in Critical Theory, and the Departments of English, Italian Studies, and Comparative Literature.