Animate Literacies

Literature, Affect, and the Politics of Humanism

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: Published: August 2019

Author: Nathan Snaza

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Cultural Studies > Affect Theory, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory

In Animate Literacies Nathan Snaza proposes a new theory of literature and literacy in which he outlines how literacy is both constitutive of the social and used as a means to define the human. Weaving new materialism with feminist, queer, and decolonial thought, Snaza theorizes literacy as a contact zone in which humans, nonhuman animals, and nonvital objects such as chairs and paper all become active participants. In readings of classic literature by Kate Chopin, Frederick Douglass, James Joyce, Toni Morrison, Mary Shelley, and others, Snaza emphasizes the key roles that affect and sensory experiences play in literacy. Snaza upends common conceptions of literacy and its relation to print media, showing instead how such understandings reinforce dehumanizations linked to dominant imperialist, heterosexist, and capitalist definitions of the human. The path toward disrupting such exclusionary, humanist frameworks, Snaza contends, lies in formulating alternative practices of literacy and literary study that escape disciplined knowledge production.


“Challenging us to discover, create, and practice modes of literacy that depart from the conventional paths that have disciplined us, Nathan Snaza puts forth significant and bracing provocations about the relationship between reading and the production of Man. In his brilliant formulation, literacy is no longer exclusively human—it happens within a thick web of animating entities that affect and bewilder. An outstanding work.” — Stacy Alaimo, author of Exposed: Environmental Politics and Pleasures in Posthuman Times

“Offering stimulating readings of familiar literary texts, Nathan Snaza recasts literacy within a field of material objects and conditions by weaving new materialism together with postcolonial and posthumanist thought into meditations on literacies within and beyond the human.” — Carla Freccero, author of Queer/Early/Modern

"Dovetailing feminist and queer new materialism, posthumanism, affect theory, ecocriticism, and a touch of Marx and Foucault, Animate Literacies demands a lot of its reader, though it almost always, rewards strenuous attention with its rich and energizing combination of love and critique." — Margaret Mendenhall, Ethnic and Third World Literatures

“This book is delightfully peripatetic, crisscrossing critical fields and literary texts with acuity and grace. Pulled into these movements, we become 'reading things' that cannot but feel the very bewilderment so key to building alternate futures.”

— Erica Fretwell, Studies in the Novel


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Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Nathan Snaza teaches English literature, gender studies, and educational foundations at the University of Richmond.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
1. The Human(ities) In Crisis  1
2. Beloved's Dispersed Pedagogy  11
3. Haunting, Love, and Attention  19
4. Humanizing Assemblages I: What Is Man?  28
5. Slavery, the Human, and Dehumanization  38
6. Literacy, Slavery, and the Education of Desire  48
7. What Is Literacy?  55
8. Humanizing Assemblages II: Discipline and Control  66
9. Bewilderment  77
10. Toward a Literary Ethology  86
11. What Happens When I Read?  99
12. The Smell of Literature  115
13. Pleasures of the Text  124
14. Those Changeful Sites  134
15. Literacies against the State  145
16. Futures of Anima-Literature  153
Notes  165
References  193
Index  209
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0479-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0415-8