A New Zealand Book of Beasts is a groundbreaking examination of the interactions between humans and 'nonhuman animals' – both real and imagined – in New Zealand's arts and literature, popular culture, historiography, media and everyday life. Structured in four parts – Animal Icons, Animal Companions, Art Animals and Controversial Animals – the Book of Beasts touches on topics as diverse as moa-hunting and the SPCA, pest-control and pet-keeping, whaling and whale-watching; on species ranging from sheep to sperm whales and from pekapeka to possums; and on the works of authors and artists as various as Samuel Butler and Witi Ihimaera, Lady Mary Anne Barker and Janet Frame, Michael Parekowhai and Don Binney, Bill Hammond and Fiona Pardington. In examining through literature, art and culture the ways New Zealanders use and abuse, shape and are shaped by, glorify and co-opt, and describe and imagine animals, the authors tell us a great deal about our society and culture: how we understand our own identities and those of others; how we regard, inhabit and make use of the natural world; and how we think about what to buy, eat, wear, watch and read. This is an engaging, original and scholarly rigorous book of cultural criticism and a thoughtful addition to New Zealand literature.
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