The Shock Proved Fatal: Whimsy and Anthropomorphism in Taxidermy of the Victorian Era, 1851-1899
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CitationYoudelman, Rachel. 2012. The Shock Proved Fatal: Whimsy and Anthropomorphism in Taxidermy of the Victorian Era, 1851-1899. Master's thesis, Harvard University, Extension School.
AbstractWhimsical, anthropomorphic taxidermy of the Victorian era has historically been dismissed as a marginal novelty. Yet why do we feel it to be, in some undefined way, emblematic of Victorian culture? Anthropomorphic works--such as studious rabbits intent at their desks in a rural village schoolroom, athletic toads playing a frenetic game of stick-and-hoop, or elegantly attired kittens sharing tea at a communal table--represent a conflation of human and animal, of death and life, which simultaneously evokes fascination and repulsion. A closer look compels questions about the historical context of its development and the creative process driving its creators: why did such grotesque anthropomorphic expression flourish at this precise point in history? On careful scrutiny, its encoded meanings reveal rich veins of information about the quality and meaning of anthropomorphism within the Victorian psyche, suggestive of a wider anxiety surrounding the shifting association between humans and animals in Victorian Britain, a shift which itself was representative of a cascade--a series of shocks--of changing social and cultural inter-relationships. With an interpretation of the creative process based upon attachment theory, anthropomorphic taxidermy is seen as a creative response to the devastating effects of industrialism and startling developments in science, tempered by traditions of anthropomorphism and existing on a continuum with related concurrent trends in visual art.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37367518
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