Page, Joanna;

Published On


Page Range

pp. 25–62


  • English

Print Length

38 pages


  • twentieth-century writers
  • Latin American bestiary
  • Jorge Luis Borges
  • Silvina Ocampo
  • Juan José Arreola
  • Wilson Bueno
  • contemporary artists
  • pre-Hispanic legends
  • alternative modernity
  • plural ontologies
  • changing relationships
  • Anthropocene
  • (re)imagining animals
  • biodiversity decline
  • ecological crisis
  • existential crisis
  • technologically developed
  • urbanized world
  • globalized world
  • alternative thinking
  • human exceptionalism
  • interconnected universe
  • reciprocity relationships
  • Rafael Toriz
  • Edgar Cano
  • Claudio Romo
  • Walmor Corrêa
  • twenty-first century
  • contesting images
  • depleted world
  • rationalization of nature
  • commodification of nature
  • revalorizing indigenous approaches
  • reconnecting animals
  • social lives
  • cultural lives
  • spiritual lives

1. Bestiaries and the Art of Cryptozoology

  • Joanna Page (author)
Many twentieth-century Latin American writers – including Jorge Luis Borges, Silvina Ocampo, Juan José Arreola and Wilson Bueno – experimented with the form of the bestiary, adapting it to the fantastic genre or for the purposes of satire. This chapter focuses on the work of more contemporary writers and artists who draw on the themes and forms of the medieval bestiary in order to revitalize pre-Hispanic legends, to construct an alternative modernity that embraces plural ontologies, and to explore the changing relationship between humans and animals in the Anthropocene. The act of (re)imagining extinct and mythical animals takes on a particular poignancy in the context of the current rapid decline in biodiversity across the world. Indeed, as I argue throughout this chapter, the mediaeval bestiary acquires a new relevance in the context of the ecological and existential crisis that pervades the technologically developed, urbanized, globalized world. It offers alternative ways of thinking and imagining the world that have been excised from the modern, rationalist, Western standpoint, challenging ideas about human exceptionalism and promoting a view of the universe as intimately interconnected within relationships of reciprocity. At the hands of contemporary writers and artists such as Rafael Toriz and Edgar Cano (Mexico), Claudio Romo (Chile) and Walmor Corrêa (Brazil), Latin American bestiaries of the twenty-first century contest dominant images of a depleted, exhausted, fragile natural world, responding to the need to re-enchant nature in the face of its rationalization and commodification in Western modernity, to revalorize indigenous and popular approaches, and to reconnect animals with human social, cultural, and spiritual lives.


Joanna Page

Professor of Latin American Studies at University of Cambridge

Joanna Page is Professor of Latin American Studies and the Director of CRASSH (the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities) at the University of Cambridge. She is the author of several books on cinema, graphic fiction, literature and visual art in Argentina, Chile, and Latin America more broadly. Many of her research projects focus on the relationship between science and the arts, but her interests also include posthumanism, new materialism, decoloniality and environmental thought in Latin America. Her most recent monograph was Decolonizing Science in Latin American Art (UCL Press, 2021). Other books published in the past few years include Geopolitics, Culture, and the Scientific Imaginary in Latin America (co-edited with María del Pilar Blanco, University Press of Florida, 2020) and Posthumanism and the Graphic Novel in Latin America (co-authored with Edward King, UCL Press, 2017).