The Breathless Zoo

Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing

By (author) Rachel Poliquin

Paperback - £23.95

Publication date:

15 May 2013

Length of book:

272 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271053738

From sixteenth-century cabinets of wonders to contemporary animal art, The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing examines the cultural and poetic history of preserving animals in lively postures. But why would anyone want to preserve an animal, and what is this animal-thing now? Rachel Poliquin suggests that taxidermy is entwined with the enduring human longing to find meaning with and within the natural world. Her study draws out the longings at the heart of taxidermy—the longing for wonder, beauty, spectacle, order, narrative, allegory, and remembrance. In so doing, The Breathless Zoo explores the animal spectacles desired by particular communities, human assumptions of superiority, the yearnings for hidden truths within animal form, and the loneliness and longing that haunt our strange human existence, being both within and apart from nature.

“I have long been a fan of Rachel Poliquin’s otherworldly online museum,, but after reading The Breathless Zoo I know just what she means when she says that all taxidermy, like storytelling, is ‘deeply marked by human longing.’ I am already longing to read The Breathless Zoo again.”

—Jay Kirk, University of Pennsylvania, author of Kingdom Under Glass