Animal Quintet : A Southern Memoir By Colin Dayan accompanied by Michael D. Snediker
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Colin Dayan meditates on the connection between her personal and family history and her relationship with animals in this lyrical memoir about her upbringing in the South. Unraveling memories alongside family documents and photographs, Animal Quintet takes a raw look at racial tensions and relations in a region struggling to change while providing a disquieting picture of a childhood accessible only through accounts of the non-human, ranging from famed Southern war horses led by Civil War generals and doomed Spanish fighting bulls to the lowly possum hunted by generations of Southerners. Placing the reader in the mind’s eye of a writer still grappling with her own mixed identity and unsettled past, the book is uniquely capable of transporting one’s imagination across time and place, mirroring the natural behavior of remembrances with its feeling of dislocation and non-linear movement. Regional folk songs about old gray mares and possums hiding in trees intermingle with stories and confidences shared by the household’s African-American nanny, enclosing the reader in a chorus composed of otherwise lost voices. Presented in a such a way that it simultaneously longs for the past and attempts to keep it at arm’s length, Animal Quintet achieves a haunting, nostalgic quality rare to memoirs focused on ancestral and personal identity.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Colin Dayan is the Robert Penn Warren Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Law. She studies American literature, Haitian historiography, and American legal scholarship-the focus of her two most recent books. In her 2007 book, The Story of Cruel and Unusual, she exposes the paradox of the eighth amendment to the constitution, showing that in the United States, cycles of jurisprudence safeguard rights and then justify their revocation. Her 2011 book, The Law Is a White Dog: How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons, examines how the fictions and language of law turn persons-and other legal non-entities, such as slaves, felons, terror suspects and dogs-into "rightless objects." The Law Is a White Dog was selected by Choice as one of the top 25 "outstanding academic books" for 2011. In her other work, she introduces an English-speaking audience to Haitian poet René Depestre's early epic poem about the vodou gods and their journey to the American South. In Fables of Mind: An Inquiry into Poe's Fiction (1987), she discusses Edgar Allen Poe's fictional works as complicated critiques of the traditions of romance and the gothic. Professor Dayan is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has received fellowships from the Danforth Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Davis Center for Historical Studies and the Program in Law and Public Affairs at Princeton University.
Michael D. Snediker is associate professor of English at the University of Houston. He is author of Contingent Figure: Chronic Pain & Queer Embodiment (U.Minnesota, 2021) Queer Optimism: Lyric Personhood and Other Felicitous Persuasions (Minnesota, 2008), a finalist for the MLA First Book Prize and Phi Beta Kappa Christian Gauss Prize. He has written two books of poems, The New York Editions and The Apartment of Tragic Appliances.