Read City of Ravens: The Extraordinary History of London, its Tower and Its Famous Ravens by Boria Sax Free Online
Book Title: City of Ravens: The Extraordinary History of London, its Tower and Its Famous Ravens|
The author of the book: Boria Sax
ISBN 13: 9781590207772
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 32.56 MB
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Reader ratings: 5.2
Edition: The Overlook Press
Date of issue: July 5th 2012
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Yet the truth is that they arrived in Victorian times as props in gory plays for tourists. But the ravens' past has far more high drama. From the plains of the North American Indians to the arctic tundra, all the way to the Tower of London, they have been symbols of cruelty, of survival through adversity, and a loveable icon. Boria Sax shows how our attitudes to the raven and to the natural world have changed enormously over the centuries. By describing the distinct place of this special bird in Western culture, he shows how blurred the lines between myth and history can be. This is a unique and brilliantly readable story of the entwined lives of people and animals.
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I first became interested in the literature of animals around the end of the 1980's, not terribly long after I had obtained my PhD in German and intellectual history. I was feeling frustrated in my search for an academic job and even study of literature. By accident, I came across an encyclopedia of animals that had been written in the early nineteenth century. There, without any self-consciousness, was a new world of romance and adventure, filled with turkeys that spoke Arabic, beavers that build like architects, and dogs that solve murders. Within a few months, I had junked my previous research and devoted my studies to these texts.
Today, I shudder how nervy the switch was for a destitute young scholar, who, despite one book and several articles, had not managed to obtain any steady job except mopping floors. But soon I had managed to publish two books on animals in literature, The Frog King (1990) and The Parliament of Animals (1992). Around 1995, I founded Nature in Legend and Story (NILAS, Inc.), an organization that combines storytelling and scholarship. It was initially, a sort of rag-tag band of intellectual adventurers who loved literature but could not find a niche in the scholarly world. We put together a few conferences, which generated a lot of excitement among the few who attended, but little notice in academia or in what they sometimes call "the real world."
From fables and anecdotes, I moved to mythology, and published The Serpent and the Swan (1997), a study of animal bride tales from around the world. This was followed by many further publications including an examination of the darker side of animal studies, Animals in the Third Reich (2000), and a sort of compendium, The Mythical Zoo (2002), and a cultural history of corvids entitled Crow (2003). My most recent book is City of Ravens: London, its Tower and its Famous Ravens (2011), and Imaginary Animals will be published soon by Reaktion Books in London.
When I embarked on the study of animals in myth and literature, even graduate students did not have to mention a few dozen books just to show that they had read them. In barely more than a couple decades, the literature on human-animal relations has grown enormously in both quantity and sophistication. NILAS, I am proud to say, has become a well established organization, which has sponsored two highly successful conferences together with ISAZ.
But as the study of animals, what I like to call "totemic literature," becomes more of a standard feature of academic programs, I fear that something may be lost. It is now just a little too easy to discourse about the "social construction" and the "transgression" of "boundaries" between animals and human beings. Even as I admire the subtlety of such analysis, I sometimes find myself thinking, "So what?"
Having been there close to the beginning, part of my role is now to preserve some the sensuous immediacy, with that filled the study of animals in literature when it was still a novelty. That sort of "poetry" is not simply a luxury in our intellectual pursuits. With such developments as cloning, genetic engineering, and the massive destruction of natural habitats, we face crises so unprecedented that traditional philosophies, from utilitarianism to deep ecology, can offer us precious little guidance. The possibilities are so overwhelming, that we hardly even know what questions to ask. But neither, I am sure, did the fugitive who once encountered a mermaid in the middle of the woods.