ABSTRACT

In his essay “The Politics of Literature,” Jacques Rancière defines politics as an activity whose aim is to reconfigure the distribution of the perceptible. Political activity entails introducing new objects and new subjects onto a common stage, thereby making visible what was invisible and making “audible as speaking beings those who were previously only heard as noisy animals” (2011, 4). In Rancière’s formulation, a “politics of literature” implies that literature intervenes as literature in the political process, helping to determine what is visible and what is audible. But what if the “noisy animals” Rancière invokes in his formulation were themselves to enter the political stage under a new dispensation in which a newly reconfigured distribution of the perceptible made them “audible as speaking beings”? And what role would literature play in this political process? In this politics-to-come, animals would be visible and audible and would thus have to be counted in the political process. We would even have to be open to the possibility that the newly perceptible language of animals would have been at least in part made so by something like animal literature. To engage with this possibility implies reconfiguring our perception of animals as well as our understanding of what literature is and of what it does.